High school students channel their inner Dr. House

Ashley Montgomery | 7/3/2014, 9 a.m.
Someone page Dr. Huxtable and let him know to move on over! Last Friday, 50 high school students from around ...
Students participate in laboratory activity.

Someone page Dr. Huxtable and let him know to move on over! Last Friday, 50 high school students from around the nation participated in a nine day summer program.

The students made their way to Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM) and found themselves in the middle of a mock outbreak of a mysterious and infectious disease. The exercise was intended to simulate the process doctors go through to solve a medical mystery and reach a diagnosis — similar to what we see on the hit TV show House.

“The goal of the campus visit is to help students test their interest in medicine, better understand the demands of the profession, and explore career options within medicine,” said Robert Hernandez, M.D., executive associate dean for student affairs at the HWCOM.

The students involved are all a part of the National Youth Leadership Forum: Careers in Medicine, a program which is designed to give the nation’s highest achieving high school students the opportunity to gain real world medical career experience and explore professional careers in the expanding fields of medicine and health care.

Jonathan Kaptansky, 17-years-old of Coral Springs is an aspiring cardiologist. He said he enjoyed the mock outbreak.

“It’s kind of like a puzzle. Figuring out the right pieces to figure out what is happening, is very interesting,” Kaptansky said.

During the interactive event, students participating gathered in teams of four and had to find clues to the outbreak by rotating through several stations where they interviewed a mock patient, experienced a simulated medical emergency, reviewed autopsy results at a mock medical examiner lab, and reviewed victims’ x-rays and lab results. Students also visited FIU’s Mobile Health Center before presenting their findings and recommendations.

Led by current medical students from FIU, the high schoolers did their best to find the source of the mystery illness.

At the end of the day, the four teams presented their findings and recommendations including what they thought was causing the outbreak. The students also discussed how to best educate the public about treatment and prevention of the illness. The team that scored the highest was compensated with a small award.

Taylor Kelley, 17, a Satellite Beach native who was inspired to become a dermatologist after learning her great grandfather was diagnosed with skin cancer, is thankful for the experience.

“I think it’s a great experience; [it] really opened my eyes to what it really takes to become a doctor,” Kelley said.

Programs like National Youth Leadership Forum are imperative for youth looking to gain hands-on experience, but also may inspire students to attend Florida schools and give back to communities in the region.

“Developing pipeline programs such as the one in critical to FIU HWCOM’s mission of recruiting the brightest individuals to pursue careers in medicine and to train and practice in South Florida,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez was equally concerned with providing students with an early introduction to the realities of the profession.

“Hopefully the participants will come away from the exercise with a better understanding of the challenges and rewards physicians experience in serving their patients and the community."