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High school students experience life as a first-year medical student at LECOM's Medical Science Academy

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Kaylee Betts just graduated from Southeast High School, but the 17-year-old is back in school again during summer break as a medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Lakewood Ranch.

Betts, who will attend Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers this fall, is among 47 high school students attending LECOM's 2015 Medical Science Academy the next two weeks on the Lakewood Ranch campus.

The academy, which began in 2008, is intended to give students a comprehensive background of what a first-year medical student faces from a classroom and casework perspective, patient-focused laboratories and on-the-job clinical shadowing.

For Betts, who said she discovered her love of science through a college prep

program. She said learning how medical professionals balance their careers and family life will be the most interesting aspect of the academy.

"I'm really excited to talk to people in the field and see what kind of lifestyle they have," Betts said. "I worry about that because I really want a family and a good career but I don't want that to be my entire life."

On the first day of the academy Monday, students were introduced to more than a dozen second-year LECOM medical student volunteers using a case presentation format to explore medical concepts. The facilitators also engage students in clinical labs where they experience a hands-on version of patient encounters such as checking for vital signs in special rooms set up on the second floor of the medical school building.

The primary areas of study during the first week involves anatomy, physiology and the respiratory system, according to Kersten Schroeder, LECOM director of community outreach and Medical Science Academy coordinator.

"We try to mimic what we put our medical students through in their first year. Lectures are conducted in the morning by LECOM faculty, Then, they engage in Problem-Based Learning, which LECOM bases its curriculum on, where students take on individual cases and research them."

Engaging the students

Schroeder said academy students will engage in clinical shadowing, visit physicians, pediatricians, dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians, as well as major medical hospitals such as Tampa General Hospital, a 1,018-bed teaching hospital.

Some students traveled from as far away as California and New Jersey to take part in the LECOM Medical Science Academy, and others heard about the unique program through teachers and community leaders in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Lakewood Ranch High School senior Dylan Thomas, 17, said he's still undecided on a major and the academy might help him to see if medicine is in his future.

"I'm taking psychology and some of that runs into medicine so that pushed me to be here," Thomas said.

Daziah Scurry, 16, a junior at Manatee School For the Arts, said she hopes the academy gives her a push to see if she wants to pursue medicine.

"I'm good in science and math, so I figured this would be a good program to join, and it's not hard to transition to from high school, since it's interesting," Scurry said.

The entire two-week Medical Science Academy costs $275 per student and runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day.

Kathryn Moschella, East Manatee reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.

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