Claflin University celebrated national Make A Difference Day on Oct. 20 with more than 300 students from the Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 High School of Health Professions.

The students heard from a panel of local health care providers, with panelists discussing issues and the myriad of career opportunities in the health care industry.

Molina Healthcare sponsored the event, which was held in the W.V. Middleton Fine Arts Center. Claflin's Minority Association of Pre-Med Students also assisted with organizing the program.

“You are the health care professionals of the future and we welcome you to Claflin University," said Dr. Verlie Tisdale during her opening remarks. Tisdale is the dean of Claflin’s School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

"It's appropriate that Molina has brought its first event to be held on a college campus with high school students to Claflin.  Years from now, many of you will be the panelists at an event such as this."

David Irizarry, community engagement coordinator with Molina Healthcare, encouraged the students to take advantage of life's opportunities and chart their own course to successful careers and productive lives.

"You are responsible for creating your own paths for others to follow," he said. "You have access to schools, local universities, hospitals and medical institutions that can help you develop your plan for achieving your dreams. Prepare yourself to lead a transformation that leaves a permanent impact for generations to come. Fall in love with whatever you do and approach it with passion from within and the rest will fall into place."

Panelists for the event were:

  • Carl Grove, RPh., pharmacy director, Regional Medical Center.
  • Dr. Jack Colker, medical director, Regional Medical Center.
  • Marylou Stinson, senior quality improvement coach, South Carolina Office of Rural Health.
  • Reba Cartee, director, healthcare services, Molina Healthcare.
  • Brian Conner, executive director, Project Excel.
  • Dr. Charles Kilgore, pediatric hospitalist.

"I encourage you to choose a career in the healthcare profession because opportunities abound," Stinson said.  "You can be an educator, a business leader, a policy maker – it's not limited to doctors, nurses or pharmacists.   The sky is the limit and we need people in this profession who in the future will point us in a new direction. With health care, you cannot be resistant to change."

When a question about the nation’s present system of health care coverage was asked, Kilgore answered:

“Being an advocate for health care policy is not in your venue. Your major responsibilities at this time in your life are making good grades, taking care of yourself and having a good time. You should do certain things that determine your health like bathing every day, getting the HPV (Human papilloma virus) vaccines which can prevent several types of cancer, and eating properly.  The best advocate for your health is you, so do the right things.”

Following the panel presentations, students and faculty from the High School of Health Professions and Molina Healthcare employees and volunteers, returned to their campus to plant a school garden.

Make A Difference Day is an annual community service event that unites millions of people for the common mission of improving the lives of others. It was created in 1992 by USA Weekend magazine and joined by Points of Light. Together they have sponsored the largest national day of community service for more than 20 years.