COPE Health Scholars is COPE Health Solutions’ series of health care courses and experiences that allow a select group of diverse group of participants to gain invaluable health care exposure, education and career development across Southern California and Seattle, Washington. As they learn about health care and develop their career goals and trajectory, the students in the course – ranging in age from 18 to their 60s – provide invaluable support to health care providers and patients.
Three years ago, Sokchantrea ‘Tree’ Chanthamany was mugged and shot in the chest on his way home from a friend’s house. “As the paramedic asked me for my name, I told him that I wanted to go to St. Mary Medical Center, even though I was closer to another hospital,” he said. “I knew I could trust them with my life.”
That reaction was the result of an exceptionally strong relationship Tree has built with St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, CA through his five years of participation in COPE Health Scholars programs. He started in high school by joining the Junior Health Scholar program, through which he gained initial exposure to health care by observing clinical staff and interacting with patients. When he transitioned into the Health Scholar program, Tree continued to enhance his connection with St. Mary by assisting with basic comfort-care for patients and supporting staff in their daily tasks.
“I grew very close with the staff of St. Mary, especially in the Telemetry and Emergency Departments. It felt amazing to be in the Health Scholar program,” he said.
For Tree, his Health Scholar experience went far beyond education and professional development. Having sustained critical injuries, he was rushed to the emergency department of St. Mary and awoke intubated in the intensive care unit surrounded by friends and family. When he was transferred to the medical surgical unit, staff from the telemetry and the emergency departments visited him regularly.
“My heart grew three times bigger that day with the warmth of love and friendship,” he said.
Tree’s relationship with the St. Mary staff has grown stronger during his time on the Health Scholar leadership team. Through his position as a Quality Management Coordinator, and then as the Director of Recruitment and Training, Tree has developed valuable professional skills and has helped improve the program for students in his community.
“I joined the Health Scholar leadership team to give back to St. Mary for saving my life,” he said.
Sokchantrea will graduate from the Health Scholar program this year with plans to become a medical illustrator and, ultimately, a trauma physician. When asked where he would like to work, his response is firm: “at St. Mary”.