Camp lets teens discover medical careers

Published 10:48 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lions Medical Eye Bank employee Tucker Casanova, left, talks Allyssa Martz, 14, through the process of removing the cornea, the part of the eye that is removed in transplants, from a cow’s eye at Sentara Obici’s medical careers summer camp Tuesday. The camp exposes teenagers who are interested in the medical careers to various aspects of the field.

Sentara Obici summer camps are run a little differently than other programs.

Instead of sing-alongs and s’mores, there are alligator attacks, beer goggles and cow eye dissections — and that’s just in the first day.

All of these events are part of Sentara Obici’s annual medical careers summer camp that kicked off yesterday.

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The camp shows teenagers, ages 13 to 16, what it’s like to work in the medical field by featuring hands-on learning experiences throughout the hospital.

This week, 55 area teens will spend mornings at Obici, taking part in various activities that feature different aspects of the medical field.

Obici education coordinator Linda Carr, who helped develop the camp, said it gives students who are interested in medical careers a clearer idea of what those jobs entail.

“It gives them a better understanding of what is involved,” she said.

Allyssa Martz, 14, said when she expressed interest in becoming a doctor her mom recommended she take part in the camp.

She said she hopes it will show her whether the career is for her.

In contrast, 13-year-old Sarah Holland decided to attend, because she has several family members who work in the medical field and she wanted to experience what it’s like.

“I thought it would be interesting,” she said.

Carr and vice president of nursing Phyllis Stoneburner developed the summer program seven years ago, and Carr said they work every year to make it bigger and better by adding new things every year.

One of the new additions this year was an accident simulation in which the teenagers had to respond to an alligator attack at a lake.

During the activity, which opened the camp, the teenagers learned the steps taken in such an incident, including the removal of bodies from water.

Carr said the teens enjoy the hands-on experiences the most, and one of the most popular is the Fatal Vision Simulation.

The Fatal Vision Simulation uses eye equipment to show the teens how greatly vision can be affected by intoxication.

In addition to these events, the teens will see a film of a real childbirth, suture pigs’ feet, learn the medical properties of leeches and take part in several other events during the duration of the camp.

Paige Hill, who manages patient care supervisors and the resource pool at Obici, has been involved with the program since its inception and said there’s no other program like it in the area.

“They come into the hospital and see what most people wouldn’t see,” she said.

She said unique thing the teens experience is entering the hospital’s morgue. This is where they used cows’ eyes to learn how to remove a cornea, which would be done in the case of a transplant.

While in the morgue, Hill said, the teens get to go inside the refrigerated area where the cadavers are kept, although the bodies are covered with sheets.

Carr said she thinks the program is a great way to encourage teenagers to pursue medical careers.

“It’s outreach to the youth to get them into a good career,” she said.

Carr said Obici is one of the only hospitals in the area that offers the program.

Friday is the last day of the camp and will feature a lesson in CPR and a graduation ceremony.