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Lancaster County Health Careers Academy immerses students in medical science for 2 weeks

06/30/2017 LancasterOnline By Susan Baldrige

At 15, Calista Logan might be one of the youngest surgical technicians to ever help remove the appendix of a patient.

OK, the patient wasn’t real — very lifelike, but not real. Yet the experience and the excitement couldn’t have been more authentic for the teen.

The Manheim Central sophomore called her mother after the surgery.

“Mom, I scrubbed in,” she said. “It was amazing.”

Calista wants to be a surgeon when she grows up. And she’s getting all kinds of exposure, education and guidance in a future medical career at the Lancaster County Health Careers Academy this summer.

Paid for with a $750,000 grant from the BB&T Economic Growth Fund, the two-week camp allows 90 high school students to return to the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences’ new, high-tech campus each summer for three years to immerse themselves in medical science.

The Lancaster County STEM Alliance, HACC’s Lancaster campus and the Lancaster-Lebanon IU13 are all partners in the academy.

“The mission of BB&T is to make the world a better place to live,” said Craig Kauffman, BB&T central Pennsylvania regional president, in a written statement. “Our decision to invest in the future of our workforce and community is another example of how BB&T works towards this reality.”

This year, the students got to dissect a pig’s heart, learn to type blood, got certified in CPR and first aid, took blood pressures and learned about the possibility of future careers in health care.

They also got to assist in very lifelike surgery, where the mannequin “patients” had no complaints.

“This is the pink tissue of the outer layers,” explained the gowned and masked instructor in the state-of-the-art operating room as 12 of the students leaned over the table to help with the “surgery.”

“The yellow is the fat layer, and the muscle is down here,” he said, moving aside “blood vessels” for his scalpel.

“We’re going to need some retraction here,” the instructor told Calista.

She was eager to comply.

Careers available

“We’re facing a critical shortage of health care workers,” said Mary Grace Simcox, president of Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences. “There are a lot of viable careers in health care, other than nursing and medicine. This gives these kids a chance to explore what’s available in the field.”

Simcox mentioned surgical technician, ultrasound technology and cardiac catherization as some of the good-paying careers teens might not know existed.

Mahogany Jones, 15, was enrolled in the technology small learning community at McCaskey High School before she attended the summer academy.

“I’m switching over to health care, and I’m learning about more careers I can go into,” Mahogany said.

The academy was offered to 10 sophomores in the School District of Lancaster, Manheim Central and Eastern Lancaster School District, a total cohort of 30 students who have signed up to come back each summer for two weeks until they graduate.

Next year, these students will move up to more technical instruction and job shadowing, while a new cohort of 30 learns the ropes.

During the school year, educators from the Lancaster HACC campus will check in on the students each month and make sure they have help with course selection and staying on track with schoolwork. The Lancaster Stem Alliance will help with data collection on the program.

“They told us here if we are interested in a medical field, it’s a big help to take a lot of science classes,” said Elanco sophomore Mark Dariychuk, 15. “I’m going to double up my biology and chemistry next year.”

Fran Hildwine, the program coordinator, presented the camp to the three high schools, which represented an urban, a suburban and a rural district.

“We accepted everyone who applied this year,” said Hildwine. “But judging from the enthusiasm for the summer program, I have a feeling we will have to go through a selection process next year.”

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