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MedQuest: It Takes a Village

The application window for Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center’s MedQuest Health Career Exploration Camp is now closed, and camp preparations are in full swing at our organization. As we review this year’s pool of 60 phenomenal applicants and make difficult acceptance decisions, we would like to take some time to thank all of the community partners who make this unique opportunity a reality.

Hosted on the Eastern Oregon University campus each June, MedQuest opens students’ eyes to the world of possibilities in healthcare by exposing them to a week of unique job shadows, panel discussions, and hands-on activities. Students leave with a clearer picture of their career aspirations, and more often than not, a passion to pursue rural healthcare.

With all of the experiences that it affords, camp is no joking matter when it comes to financial considerations. This labor of love bears an annual price tag of nearly $20,000 in direct costs for NEOAHEC, which is only partially covered by the camp tuition. While NEOAHEC absorbs some camp costs to make the opportunity as economical as possible, the tuition is still out of reach for many rural, underserved families in Northeast Oregon. This is where community support comes in.

Lewis, Poe, Moeller, Gunderson, & Roberts LLC; Koza Family Dental; the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization’s Local Community Advisory Council; and Mark L. Harris, DMD, PC are among those who have donated to the 2018 MedQuest scholarship fund to ensure all students accepted into camp are able to attend regardless of their ability to pay camp tuition. Dr. Don Benschoter also recently stepped up to the plate by providing the largest private scholarship donation in the camp’s history. Benschoter, a NEOAHEC Board member and former long-time preceptor for OHSU dentistry students at his practice in Pendleton, noted that his selling point to support MedQuest was a run-in with last year’s campers during their operating room tour at Grande Ronde Hospital. He said, “The elevator doors opened and I saw all of these high school students in scrubs. The looks on their faces were priceless.”

Although Don terms off the board in September, his gift will leave a legacy for years to come. It will allow NEOAHEC to create an account to provide a set number of scholarships each year before camp registration even begins. Lair called the donation, “such a surprise, and a needed boost for NEOAHEC.” She noted, “We will still rely on community support to fill the entire need for our students, but his gift will reduce the total number of scholarship dollars that our staff needs to find.”

However, scholarships are still only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to MedQuest: In-kind donations from the community are another critical component. Local medical providers and institutions donate countless hours through job shadows, mock wilderness rescues, tours, and other activities. Grande Ronde Hospital alone donates more than 150 hours annually through shadows, tours, and the staff time to coordinate these experiences.

“We are strong supporters of Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center and their mission to educate and inspire the next generation of Eastern Oregon healthcare professionals,” stated Jim Mattes, President and CEO of Grande Ronde Hospital, Inc. “They provide a valuable service to ensuring quality healthcare thrives in rural areas like ours.”

Mattes added, “For many years, Grande Ronde Hospital has supported the MedQuest program with facility tours, job shadowing and mentoring. We proudly welcome these students to our facility, sharing our passion, talent and experience for providing great healthcare in our rural community.”

Eastern Oregon University remains another invaluable camp partner, providing affordable meals and lodging to keep our camp’s residential rates low. In addition, Community Bank will sponsor a meal at camp, Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative will help purchase MedQuest shirts, Walmart will provide camp prizes, and many other donors will lend support in various capacities.

MedQuest Director Bailey Ault said, “Having been a MedQuest camper, counselor, and now the camp director, I appreciate all of the generous support that it takes to make this camp possible. From the healthcare providers’ time to teach high school students about their jobs, to the scholarships made available through thoughtful donations for students to attend camp, it takes everyone coming together to make this camp successful.”

As Helen Keller asserted, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” If you would like to play a role in this inspirational camp, please contact Brittany Hargrove at to learn more about your options.

Donate to our scholarship fund here!