Rockin' Docs inspires kids to make healthy life choices

UAlberta medical students host summer camp for inner-city kids.


It’s not every summer camp where kids get to learn the inner workings of the heart or see a demonstration teaching the finer points of surgery. But the University of Alberta medical students who host Rockin’ Docs each summer in a university research facility never wanted it to be an ordinary camp.

“We teach these kids about medicine, about health sciences and about living healthy lifestyles,” says camp co-coordinator Lexa Peters. 

“It’s the incorporation of medicine and the body,” adds fellow co-ordinator Roxanne Pinson, “hopefully in a fun, interactive way.”

Rockin’ Docs has been held by first-year students in the MD Program at the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry since 2008. The summer camps are free and are run by volunteers for two weeks every summer for dozens of children in grades 1 through 6. They are targeted at inner-city or lower-income kids who normally wouldn’t get the chance to enjoy a summer camp.

According to Peters, the environment is a real eye-opener for the kids. “Lots of times they have never been to a university, they don’t know what university is. So it’s a good way to expose them to it and show them that it’s something they can do. It’s something they can achieve—if they want, they can be doctors too.”

The hope is that the lessons taught at the camp about healthy living will stick with the kids for the rest of their lives. But it’s not just the children who are learning—the student volunteers, many of whom are interested in going into pediatrics or family medicine, benefit as well.

“Working with kids is so different from working with adults,” says Peters. “It’s almost an art. You have to practise it.” 

Pinson adds, “This allows us to exercise our teaching skills. It also allows us to review a bit of our own knowledge and how we apply it.”

Though the camp is run by medical students, it would not be possible without the help of faculty members who donate time as guest speakers and sponsors who donate funding. And although the aim of Rockin’ Docs is to teach healthy living habits, Pinson hopes its impact stretches further. She says it would be a welcome bonus if, in time, some of the kids were to also choose a career in medicine. 

“If that’s what happens, we’d be more than happy. We’d be ecstatic.”

Rockin’ Docs is sponsored by the Medical Students' Association, Student Group Services, MD Management, Panago, Pita Pit and the law firm Bennett Jones.