NEW ORLEANS — A group of 30 high school students spent their day at Tulane University School of Medicine on Tuesday getting hands-on training in what they would experience in a typical medical school education.
In a state-of-the-art simulation training facility, the high school juniors and seniors checked vital signs on high-tech mannequins, practiced suturing and other surgical skills, and performed CPR on mock infants using a defibrillator.
In its second year, the program is made possible through a partnership between the Tulane Rural Outreach Initiative and the Central Louisiana Area Health Education Center.
The goal of the program is to address the shortage of and ever-growing demand for health-care professionals, said Nan Ewing, health careers director for CLAHEC. Ewing said that to participate, the students had to have at least a 3.0 GPA, fill out an application, get a letter of recommendation and write an essay.
Tulane medical students volunteered to teach the group as members rotated between learning stations and began with an introduction on what applying for and being in medical school is like.
With a focus on reaching out to young people outside New Orleans and particularly in rural areas, the students who participated Tuesday were from nine parishes across central Louisiana.
Controlling robotic arms, students used scissor-like handles to practice the meticulous hand-eye coordination techniques required during surgery.
Hooking and lifting small rings with the robotic arm, Kayla Reaves, a junior at Parkview Baptist School in Baton Rouge, said that she applied for the program to get a better taste of the medical field, but she also has a fascination with the criminal mind and psychology. Reaves said will consider combining her interests and pursuing neurology.
The third-floor facilities opened in 2009 are built to the specifications of a real hospital, said Keith Brannon, assistant director for public relations at Tulane. The mock patients can take fluids, have heart attacks, die on the table and be revived by electric shock, Brannon said.
Omar Kana, a junior at Dutchtown High School in Geismar, said he plans to be either a general surgeon or an aerospace engineer. Kana said he is attracted to the medical field because it is one of the most challenging and interesting careers, and because of the prestige of being a doctor.
In a mock exam room, Tulane med student Layla Abushamat talked to the students about things to look for during the first introduction with a patient, such as body language, temperament, the appearance of their eyes and skin tone.
Nacosha Roberson, a junior at Belaire High School in Baton Rouge, said that her plans to enter the medical field are definite. She said that initially she wanted to be a nurse but is now leaning more toward being a doctor.
In the afternoon, the students had the opportunity to interact with live humans — “standardized patients,” who agree to participate in training exercises. With the real people, students performed eye exams and checked vital signs.
Roberson, who said she wants to pursue a career in medicine to save lives, said Tuesday’s experience definitely brightened her interest and reaffirmed her career goals.
Tulane med student and Baton Rouge native Bryce Beard said that he didn’t decide to pursue medicine until his senior year as a philosophy major at Louisiana State University. He said he chose Tulane because the diversity of the city appealed to him. Beard said that he volunteered as a way of giving back and guiding students who were choosing career paths like he had been at one time.