Summer program introduces teens to health care career opportunities

Students practice peg transfer to learn basic laparoscopic surgical skills.

Close to 50 high school students from the greater Los Angeles area took part in two weeklong summer programs designed to introduce them to various careers in healthcare. “We created the Pre-Med Summer Scholar Program in response to numerous requests from our teen volunteers who wanted more exposure to health care employment opportunities,” says Regina Naanos, manager, outpatient volunteer and Pre-Med Summer Scholar programs.

More than a dozen different departments participated in this year’s program. Students toured pathology, inpatient rehabilitation, interventional radiology and brain mapping facilities, as well as a mobile eye clinic. “They observed a childbirth simulation demonstrated by obstetrics and gynecology, and participated in roundtable discussions with specialists in internal medicine, emergency medicine and oncology,” says Naanos.

Students spent two of the five days with experts from the UCLA Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology (CASIT). “We offered participants the opportunity to try their hand at suturing both in the traditional way and using robotic technology,” says Areti Tillou, MD, a trauma and acute care surgeon at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Students watched a livestream video of two different sleeve gastrectomy procedures and were able to ask the surgeons questions. Last year, Dr. Tillou and others from CASIT held a separate surgical skills intensive program for high school students interested in surgical careers. This year, CASIT offered the program in conjunction with the Pre-Med Summer Scholar Program. Through CASIT, students completed Stop the Bleed® training and learned how to provide care for traumatic injuries until medical help arrives.

“During their week here, participants have the chance to explore a range of health care jobs and to meet one-on-one with professionals from various medical backgrounds, including doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists and medical assistants,” says Naanos. “For some students, this program reconfirms a desire to pursue a career in medicine. For others, it opens the door to possibilities that they might not have previously known about.”

Interest in the program has grown substantially since its inception in 2016. More than 250 high schoolers applied for this year’s program. To meet this increasing demand, the outpatient volunteer office hosted one program in late June and another program in early July. The program is open to high school sophomores and juniors who are admitted based on their school transcripts, two letters of recommendation and an essay describing why they’re interested in the program.

To learn more about the program, visit Pre-Med Summer Scholar Program.