Somerset HOT Expo

November marks a very important time for me. It is my annual hire date and also the month in which the Health Occupations Today (HOT) Expo is usually held.  Last year I had the opportunity to see it during the first week of my job. I was completely overwhelmed and awestruck at the event. The team at Southern KY AHEC had worked diligently planning and preparing for this event and it showed. Of course I had no idea what had taken place behind the scene to get to this point.

As I stood in the exhibit hall that day I remember seeing the students coming and going from vendor to vendor. They were asking questions, participating in hands-on activities, and enjoying their time at The Center for Rural Development. I don’t know if flabbergasted is a good enough word to describe what I felt that day. It was definitely a sight to behold. At the end of the event I remember being told that next year this is going to be your baby. What does a person say to that?

This year marked the 13th year of HOT Expo. The Health Occupations Today Expo has actually been around longer than the iPhone. It started with a small group of students at EKU in 2000. Just knowing that HOT Expo has been up and running successfully for years is a little intimidating especially since we decided to make some significant changes to this year’s event. It may have been the 13th year for the event, but it was the first year that it had a theme. The theme for the event was Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” Not only did we add a theme, but we also changed our targeted audience to sophomores and juniors instead of juniors and seniors. The bus loading and unloading areas were rearranged along with doing away with the bus scripts. There was a giant screen in the front lobby that displayed the rules and regulations and had music to accompany it. I kept having a recurring thought pop into my mind while planning, could I be the person to destroy the success record? At one point in time I actually had to call The Center for Rural Development just to make sure I had told everyone the right date. A little confirmation never hurts.

I can honestly say the event was a huge success. We had 26 schools show up from 15 different counties, bringing the total number of students to 989. We also had 139 wonderful exhibitors ranging from college representatives to medical professionals. The students were engaged throughout the event, asking questions and participating in the hands-on activities. Some of the activities the students got to participate in were making stress balls out of balloons thanks to Rockcastle Regional Hospital’s Occupational Therapy Department or practice giving shots thanks to Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center. The students were able to meet a variety of health professionals ranging from nursing to physical therapy. Along with this the students talked with college recruiters about health careers. We were also very fortunate to have the UK College of Medicine student ambassadors and a UK College of Pharmacy student speak with the students.

The biggest thing that I learned while planning HOT Expo is that it is a team effort. The event could not have taken place if not for the schools, the exhibitors and Southern KY AHEC’s ability to work together. Everyone at Southern KY AHEC has a certain thing that they are good at or enjoy doing. It was really neat to see how this all worked together. Shawnee Eckert, our office manager and special projects coordinator has a great eye for decorations and an in-depth knowledge of internet databases. She coordinated the emails to exhibitors and schools along with making some outstanding decorations. She also donated some trees from Cove Branch to make the Lorax Trees. Gerry Musterman, our clinical education coordinator, has a way with food and people, so she headed up planning and preparing all of the food for the exhibitors. She even helped in the designing and decorating process. Anna Jones, assistant director and outreach education coordinator knows just about everyone in healthcare, so she did exhibitor registration.  She also packed her car full of laptops, projection screens, bags, etc so we could use them during the event. It is quite amazing what she can fit into her car. Shirley Balman lent her great voice for HOT Expo announcing the schools dismissals. Dwain Harris the Director of Southern KY AHEC took some outstanding pictures and braved the cold rain to put up bus signs.

It is amazing what can happen between one year and the next. Last year I was completely clueless as to what all was involved with HOT Expo. This year I know exactly what all it takes to put on HOT Expo. It is a huge undertaking which takes months to plan and organize, but it is all worth it when you see the students learning and interacting with the outstanding exhibitors. The students who visited HOT Expo can walk away with a new found knowledge and appreciation for health careers, which is exactly what we wanted.