Just a half hour south of the city near rural St. Charles, Iowa, Wildwood Hills Ranch feels a world away for the at-risk youth who spend summer weeks horseback riding, taking high-ropes course challenges and enjoying water sports at the camp.
It was also a refuge from the lecture, lab, test (and repeat) life of DMU student Kody Massner, D.O.’19. Massner shares how his experience working in the ranch’s health center was a rewarding respite from studies that helped him reconnect with this passion for medicine:
The weeks of summer vacation between first and second year of medical school were the most critical times for me as a medical student. At the end of my first year, I was exhausted and beginning to question my future, purpose and capabilities. As my colleagues were excelling in research, developing their clinical skills or enjoying vacation time, I decided to join the staff at Wildwood Hills Ranch of Iowa. Every summer, the Ranch serves more than 1,000 at-risk youth from communities throughout the state by providing a week-long camp experience that includes agriculture, aquatics, art, horses, music, team building and wellness.
At the beginning of the summer, I had the intention of simply helping out with camp activities, specifically in the Health Care Center, while serving the children at the camp and trying to decompress from the previous school year. Little did I know, I ended that summer with a completely new perspective.
In hindsight, my summer experience at the Ranch was physically demanding, but it was one of the most rewarding experience of my life thus far. My daily activities included long hours, a number of basic first aid duties and other health care tasks, but the most beneficial experiences came when I was able to sit down and learn from the youth.
I firmly believe the youth in our communities are the future, and it is vitally important to invest in these children and prepare them to flourish in the lives they have ahead of them. My childhood differed greatly from the childhoods of the children at the Ranch, but this difference in perspective forced me to be patient, properly communicate and seek to understand the children’s perception of their world.
Now months into my clinical years, I value the lessons the people at the Ranch taught me as I translate these skills into the clinic and hospital. I would encourage all medical students to seek opportunities where they can both serve others while discovering more about themselves.
The D.O. Class of 2021 got a taste of camp life at an orientation picnic designed to help build camaraderie and enjoy a last gasp of summer. Find a gallery of photos from that day on the DMU Facebook page.