Libby students test out the medical field

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Alexyss Camen (left) and Hunter Bulter (right) dissecting a sheep brain during their first day at the MedStart camp.

Three Libby High School students gained hands-on experience in the medical field over the summer.

Hunter Butler, Elizabeth Vanderhoef and Alexyss Camen of Libby High School were selected to join an elite group of Montana high school students to participate in a five-day summer program aimed at healthcare career exploration.

From July 24-28, the students attended one of the MedStart camps across Montana in Butte, hosted by Montana AHEC (Areas Health Education Center).

According to the host of the Butte camp, Natascha Robinson, the students engaged in educational workshops involving emergency services, nursing, behavior health and dental work.

During the camp, they had a chance to job shadow for half the day where they followed a medical professional of their choice.

Bultler, a junior at Libby High School, thought about a nursing career before she applied, but she wasn’t sure what type of nurse she wanted to be. When she arrived at the camp, she decided to job shadow labor and delivery.

“If I could do it again, I would,” Butler said.

During her job shadowing, Butler said she was lucky enough to witness a woman having a baby. Butler said she was the only one in her group to choose labor and delivery, so she was the only one to witness the live birth.

“It was just really cool to actually get to see someone actually having a baby, when that’s something you want to do, and seeing how it all works. I watched the entire thing. It was so cool,” Butler said.

Vanderhoef, a senior at Libby High School, always knew she wanted to save people’s lives, but only thought about a medical profession when she happened upon a book about oncology and surgery when she was 13. When she was younger, Vanderhoef’s mother and teacher both passed away from cancer.

“I’ve always been interested in the way the cancer reacts to the treatments,” Vanderhoef said.

For her job shadow, Vanderhoef chose oncology, where she job shadowed radiologists and support staff, getting to speak with patients and seeing the technical side of chemotherapy.

“We were all really focused on what we were doing, and it was nice to be able to be exposed to this so early so you know exactly what you’re getting into. How everything works and how it’s not just one particular department, it’s more of a machine of things that it goes through,” Vanderhoef said.

Vanderhoef said she got to meet most of the medical staff in the oncology department, including the director, who invited her back if she was ever in the area and wanted to work for them.

Butler said that on top of the job shadowing, the students talked with different medical professionals, went to a nearby nursing home and played games with the residents, dissected a sheep brain and cadaver, took a look at dental care, witnessed a man get his tooth pulled out, listened to a speaker from Montana Tech University of Montana in Butte and had a farewell barbecue at the end of the trip.

“The cadaver lab, that was really cool too,” Butler said. “I didn’t know how I would do, and then we got there and they started doing it and I was like, ‘This is so cool.’”

Vanderhoef said the cadaver was also her favorite part of the experience, because they were able to see and learn how the body works.

According to Robinson, the entire program drew 80 Montana high school students going into their junior and senior years to different camps across the state. There was a total of 16 students at the Butte camp. The students had from January to March to turn in their applications, Robinson said, and after a rigorous process the selected students were announced in April.

Robinson said the team also went down to University of Montana Tech in Butte to attend college planning session and sat in on a financial aid presentation, participated in a current health profession student panel and took a tour of the campus.

During her senior year, Bulter is planning on interning at Cabinet Peaks Medical Center, but said she hasn’t picked out a college to attend yet. This year, Alexyss Camen is also interning at CPMC. Vanderhoef said she plans to attend the Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell next year and eventually plans on attending the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash.

Reporter Bethany Rolfson may be reached at 293-4124 or by email at

Alexyss Camen (Left) and Hunter Butler (right) working on a mannequin.


The entire crew of the MedStart camp in front of Montana Tech University of Montana in Butte.

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