Appleton, Wis. (July 11, 2009) –Seventeen-year-old Sam Grow applied for a Medical Mentoring spot to see if his dream of becoming a surgeon would hold up in a real-world operating room.
Kirsten Gettendorf signed up, curious to get an inside look at the role of nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
This summer, they and 90 other juniors and seniors from nine high schools are getting a tantalizing taste of life as a medical professional by shadowing doctors, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists and dentists in their daily routines, whether replacing a knee, scoping a shoulder or reassuring patients.
Founded in 2006 by Dr. David Eggert, Orthopedic & Sports Institute of the Fox Valley surgeon, participation in the hands-on program has mushroomed from just 13 students its first summer.
"As word got out we included more schools, and more providers," said coordinator Courtney Vosters. "Kids are telling their teachers what a great experience they've had, which is a first-hand glimpse of what they might be doing in the future."
And the future looks bright, even in a recession, for health care as the population ages and life expectancy grows. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of health care and social assistance will grow 25.4 percent and add 4 million new jobs between now and 2016.
Teens selected for Medical Mentoring are paired with a professional, based on their area of interest, and spend 12 hours with them on the job.
Grow, a Xavier High School senior, said he has considered medicine for a long time, intrigued with the idea of "helping people. I hoped this would affirm my feelings for becoming a doctor, and it did."
He shadowed Dr. Thomas Wascher, a NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin neurosurgeon, observing everything from pre-op to actual operations.
He said the skill, speed and efficiency he saw in real-life lower back and neck surgery are nothing like he's seen in TV dramas. "The atmosphere blew me away," he said. "There was music playing and it was kind of laidback. It was crazy but cool."
Gettendorf, 17, a Fox Valley Lutheran senior, said health care workers have long inspired her and she was "excited to shadow medical professionals and observe health care from their point of view."
She shadowed nurse practitioner Tracy Jessogne and observed Eggert in surgery, but said she prefers the clinic side of medicine. "The whole experience was phenomenal. They taught me basics of anatomy and how to interact with patients. I got to try that out for myself."
"We didn't just stand by and watch," she added. "It was like we were being trained for the job and they shared their knowledge with us in ways we could understand."
Grow noticed surgeons depend on large supporting casts, something he hadn't realized before.
"I was a little shocked there were so many paths you can take that are still concerned with medicine," he said.
"I still think it's a success when kids leave us saying 'Wow, it's a great program but this is not for me,'" Vosters said, but many are like Gettendorf and Grow, who are eager to start their health care careers by studying biology in college.
"Just to see the excitement of these kids who give up their summer time to do this is remarkable." She said. "Kids are so busy with jobs and other things and for them to ask if they can come again, is gratifying."
For more information vist www.medical-mentoring.com (LINK)