Inez Hohn joined the Parkston High School chapter of Health Occupations Students of America when she was a freshman, spurred on by her interest in someday working in the pharmaceutical industry.

Now a senior, Hohn has found more than just an organization for students interested in entering the field of medicine. Last summer, she competed at the HOSA International Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida, bringing home a third-place award for her project that looked into the work done by pharmacists.

“I’ve always been most interested in math and science classes, and I’m just kind of interested in the medical field,” Hohn said. “So when I was a freshman I joined it. I thought it sounded really cool.”

HOSA is an international student organization recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Health Science Education Division of ACTE. The two-fold mission of the organization is to promote career opportunities in the health care industry and to enhance the delivery of quality health care to all people.

The group has only been active in South Dakota for seven years, but Bartells said the interest at her school, and South Dakota in general, is growing.

“We’re over 1,000 members in South Dakota now. It’s growing every year and we get more chapters and the chapters keep getting bigger,” Bartells said. “We have had a huge increase in Parkston this year with 51 members. Last year we had 30. We do different service projects throughout the school year, like collecting Kleenex and hand wipes for teachers. Last year we did a donkey basketball fundraiser that brought in $5,000 for two different families in the area.”

Hohn was among seven Parkston HOSA members who, along with Bartells, attended the national conference in Orlando over the summer, and competed with her pharmacy presentation and project in the clinical specialist event. To prepare for her project, she accrued hours of work shadow experience with pharmacists in Parkston and Mitchell, produced a video on pharmaceutical counseling and interviewed a patient through the local school nurse office.

The project was presented with a speech at the state HOSA conference, which was held at The Pentagon in Sioux Falls. Hohn placed in the top three in her event at state, allowing her to advance to the national level.

At her presentation in Orlando, Hohn said she spoke more from the heart than her notes.

“When I went to nationals, the only thing I changed was with my speech. I hit a few different topics and spoke more from the heart. I did so much better at nationals,” Hohn said.

Bartells said she was thrilled with Hohn’s performance.

While the HOSA chapter in Parkston focuses on community service and health awareness along with being a support organization for students looking to enter the field of health care, Bartells said students may find a path other than health care that interests them through the group. One student who had no particular interest in the health field visited with emergency helicopter pilots during one HOSA event, and soon found himself looking into becoming one, Bartells said.

Hohn agreed that there is something for everyone as a member of HOSA.

Hohn has the 2019-20 school year left in her high school career and her HOSA experience. She plans to navigate the year as she has in the past, and intends to return to the state and national competitions if she qualifies, she said. She is looking at doing two projects this year. She also has taken up a student leadership role within the group.

And she definitely has an eye on working in a health-related field, she said.

“That’s my goal right now. At the moment I’m extremely interested in pharmacy, so that’s kind of my plan,” Hohn said.

Bartells said she hoped students continue to recognize the benefits of taking part in the HOSA program. Between raising awareness about health issues, educating students about the careers in health care and fundraising for needy families, there is something for everyone within the organization, said said.

“I tell them they will not regret being a member,” Bartells said.