Back to News

Scouts explore health professions during Merit Badge University at WVU

Scouts explore health professions during Merit Badge University at WVU

Young people across West Virginia and the region recently had the opportunity to learn about health professions from students and faculty at West Virginia University Health Sciences while earning a merit badge.

On Feb. 24, more than 250 Scouts participated in Merit Badge University, an annual one-day event that provides opportunities for members of Scouts BSA to earn merit badges in a variety of ways. Merit Badge University is sponsored by WVU and the Mountaineer Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Scouts who registered to earn the Health Care Professions Merit Badge worked with representatives from the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy to learn about 14 disciplines and how health scenarios may be approached by different healthcare practitioners. Career paths provided by academic programs within the schools of Dentistry and Public Health are taught as part of discipline-specific merit badges.

“This event was so successful because of the exceptional team of healthcare professionals and Scouting leadership,” said SueAnn Woods, associate professor and director of the Master of Occupational Therapy program, who helped organize the healthcare session. “The event will be instrumental for both the recruitment of future healthcare practitioners and improved healthcare literacy for all attendees.”

Members of Scouts BSA work with WVU School of Medicine student volunteer Cecelia Simons to learn about the field of occupational therapy. (WVU Photo/Davidson Chan) 

Throughout the day, Scouts learned how various healthcare professions impact delivery of care and the educational and licensing requirements to work in the professions. Students and faculty also shared their personal interests in their selected field.

“This is the first time we are able to offer Health Care Professions at WVU Merit Badge University,” Marina Galvez Peralta, teaching associate professor in the School of Pharmacy and merit badge counselor, explained. “I wanted to inspire the Scouts to find their purpose while offering this merit badge, and it was truly a team effort.

“When designing this experience, we wanted to keep in mind how to educate the Scouts, removing pre-conceptions about what a particular profession does, and help them to identify all the different opportunities that are opened once you decide to take the journey as healthcare professional.”

For student Aubrey Snyder, the event was a chance to share the opportunities the School of Nursing and Health Sciences provides to students interested in healthcare.

“I enjoyed getting to run simulations in the SIM lab for the Scouts, as well as teaching them some of the nursing skills we use, such as taking vital signs and assessment skills and how we work interprofessionally with other members of the healthcare team to advocate for our patients and bring them the best possible outcome,” Snyder said. “It is so important for young people to be able to participate in these opportunities because it paints a picture of what it would be like for them to be in the healthcare field one day.”

School of Medicine Division of Physical Therapy student John Thomas wanted to volunteer for Merit Badge University as a way to educate young people about his chosen field, an experience he says is important for learning about potential careers and pathways.

“I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare, but wasn’t sure which path to take,” Thomas said. “I did observation hours with several health professionals and eventually landed on physical therapy.

“I think these opportunities are crucial as they help open young minds to a variety of career options that they might not have thought of otherwise. It is essential for people to find careers early on that they can be passionate about and see themselves doing for a long time.”

Merit Badge University participants work with WVU School of Nursing student volunteers Skylar Webb and Riley Gray to learn about patient simulation in the David and Jo Ann Shaw Center for Simulation Training and Education for Patient Safety (STEPS). (WVU Photo/Davidson Chan) 

While visiting the Health Sciences Campus, Scouts had the opportunity to participate in experiential learning activities in the state-of-the-art David and Jo Ann Shaw Center for Simulation Training and Education for Patient Safety (STEPS).

Tyler Trayter, a School of Pharmacy student and Eagle Scout Award recipient, explained that STEPS has provided experiences that aren’t typically found in the classroom, providing the Scouts a more in-depth look into opportunities provided at WVU.

“The STEPS Center has offered a lot of unique scenarios in the pharmacy curriculum that I would not have experienced through book learning or my internships,” Trayter said. “I also enjoy the opportunity that it brings to foster interprofessional relations with other disciplines. I find it important for other disciplines to work together during their education to respect each other’s disciplines and roles when in practice.”

Having participated in Boy Scouts of America throughout middle and high school, Trayter added that opportunities offered through the organization, such as Merit Badge University, are important for young people.

“Scouting has given me a lot of unique opportunities to help my community, explore the outdoors and shape my character for the better. Merit Badge University is an excellent way for Scouts and youth to explore career options and see what a day in the life of a practitioner may be.”

Other hands-on activities included learning about record keeping, using microscopes to analyze tissue and cell samples and examining sample versions of x-rays.

To fulfill the service component of earning a merit badge, Scouts volunteered with Project MUSHROOM (Multidisciplinary UnSheltered Homeless Relief Outreach of Morgantown) to create care packages that will be delivered by the organization. The School of Medicine-based project partnered with the Health Sciences Women in Science and Health Committee (WISH) to ensure items for the packages were available throughout the day.

“We are so fortunate to have the support of the WVU faculty, staff and students for Merit Badge University,” said Amy Garbrick, president of the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America Mountaineer Area Council. “The Scouts truly get immersed in the experiences provided by a world class university. Every badge is taught by professionals in the field and provides an opportunity for them explore possible career paths they may not otherwise have the chance to explore. And for the University, they have the opportunity to recruit our Scouts right into their programs.”

Photo at Top: Members of Scouts BSA work with a Merit Badge University volunteer Michelle Butina, associate professor and vice chair of biomedical laboratory diagnostics in the School of Medicine, to learn about the use of microscopes. (WVU Photo/Davidson Chan).



CONTACT: Jessica Wilmoth
Senior Communications Specialist
University Relations – Health Sciences