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High-schoolers dissecting medical-career potential

By Angela Spencer

This article was published June 15, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

tailor-spann-of-judsonia-holds-up-two-cows-eyes-before-a-dissection-lesson-at-mash-medical-application-of-science-for-health-at-white-county-medical-center-in-searcy

Tailor Spann of Judsonia holds up two cow’s eyes before a dissection lesson at M*A*S*H — Medical Application of Science for Health — at White County Medical Center in Searcy.

SEARCY — Tailor Spann of Judsonia will enter the 11th grade in August, and she already knows she wants to work in trauma when she graduates from college.

Spann is one of 16 high school students who are participating in MAS*H — Medical Application of Science for Health — at White County Medical Center in Searcy.

MAS*H is a two-week intensive summer program for high school students entering their junior or senior year. The program introduces them to various roles in health-related professions through visits to the Searcy Fire Department and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, shadowing health care professionals, getting hands-on training through dissections and touring various parts of the medical center.

Shouts of awe and excitement filled the room as the students dissected pig hearts Tuesday afternoon. One student, Beebe senior MaKenzie Free, said she plans to be a family-practice physician, and she was excited about the hands-on aspect of MAS*H.

“I’m really fascinated with the body and how it works,” she said.

As she dissected the pig heart, Free pointed out several of its parts.

“Look at the tricuspid valve,” she said. “This is so cool!”

Spann also excitedly examined the heart, identifying elements of the muscle and talking about how interesting it is to see a heart so similar to a human heart. She said television shows about emergency-room stories fascinate her, and she hopes to work in an emergency room someday.

“Miracles happen in there,” she said. “It’s probably stressful, but that’s when the adrenaline kicks in.”

After the heart dissection, the students had a chance to dissect a cow’s eye. While some thought the eye was a little more grotesque than the heart, Spann took a special interest in seeing the inside of the eyeball.

Spann has been blind in her right eye since she was born. She was born with a hole in her eye, and when she was 8 years old, her retina detached. Surgery to reattach the retina failed, but the situation spurs Spann on to see if there might be a solution to her problem.

“The thought of seeing what’s wrong with it and if it could be fixed is exciting,” she said.

Spann plans to attend Arkansas State University-Beebe when she graduates from high school, and MAS*H is one way to learn a little more about working in a hospital before she applies to college.

Levi King, MASH supervisor, as well as human resources and education supervisor at WCMC, said MASH is a good way for students to get a taste of what is really involved in a medical profession before they spend money on an education for a career they may not enjoy as much as they anticipated.

“It gives them the ability to see what is involved in the medical career before they spend money and find out they don’t like it,” King said. “They’ll get a chance to shadow people in all areas of the building. They get to see the real people doing the real job.”

King said MAS*H has been going on at WCMC for about 20 years, and some employees at the medical center went through the program when they were in high school.

The students will also have an opportunity to develop mentorship relationships with staff members to gain real-world advice from people who are already involved and successful with medical professions.

“They welcome us into each area and really mentor the students,” King said. “We encourage the students to ask questions about medical school and get advice about what the staff did or would do differently if they could go back.”

Last year, several students got to watch operations being performed, and six got to witness babies being born. Students will have similar opportunities this year.

At the end of the program, MAS*H students will be able to witness — and, to an extent, be a part of — a mock drill during which several staff members will be in a fake car accident. The Fire Department will respond and cut them out of the vehicles with the Jaws of Life, and doctors will work on the fake injuries to show students how various aspects of an emergency response flow together.

MAS*H is sponsored and funded by White County Medical Center, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences-Rural Hospital Program, the Arkansas Farm Bureau and Arkansas Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or aspencer@arkansasonline.com.

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