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Academy lessons are hands-on

July 27, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

The eyes lay on classroom tables, sightless in their trays.

Armed with probes, tweezers, scissors and scalpels, youngsters wearing white lab coats and latex gloves prepared to take apart the tiny spheres.

Dawn Drooger asked them to look at each lens. "Is it hard or soft?" the teacher asked. "Take your scissors and cut it in half."

Cautiously, they picked up and pierced cow eyeballs. Out leaked vitreous humor, a jelly-like transparent substance. The kids kept cutting and concentrating, following written directions.

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Drooger explained why lenses must be soft.

"What does the lens do? It moves and changes thickness," she said. "What's this gooky stuff in the back of the eye? That's your retina, folks."

The kids are mostly quiet. "Don't peel it! Ewww!" one tells her partner.

"It stinks," says another.

The young students attending the Med-Academy at Hagerstown Community College are interested in becoming doctors.

The course is part of College for Kids, a gifted and talented program offered jointly by the college and the Washington County Board of Education.

Other courses teach subjects such as jazz dancing, watercolors and photography.

The one-week Med-Academy course was offered for the first time this year. The 14 spots filled quickly, according to Program Coordinator Tammy Smith. In response, the college added a second week and still had names on a waiting list.

The second group started Monday. The week's schedule calls for dissections of a sheep's heart, brain and kidney. On Friday, each student will work on a fetal pig.

"It's one of the most aggressive medical programs I've seen. Everything they do is hands-on," said Drooger, HCC's medical and dental office training coordinator.

Drooger said she attended nursing school at HCC and worked at doctors' offices and in hospitals for several years. "I built this course from scratch," she said.

The course, aimed at middle school students, costs $125. It covers different aspects of medical science, including neurophysiology, anatomy and the cardiovascular system. Students learn cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, commonly known as CPR, and the Heimlich maneuver.

They also will learn to use automatic external defibrillators, machines that help start a stopped heart. An orthopedics specialist will show students how to put casts on each other. A microbiologist will teach them about microbes.

They use a computer program, Bodyworks, to study anatomy. The course helps kids understand how their bodies work, but it also helps them explore medical science, according to Drooger.

"Most of the students who applied are at least thinking of a medical career," she said.

Kelly Dofflemyer, 11, already knows she wants to be a doctor, either in the emergency room or the operating room.

She said her mother is a full-time nurse and "I kind of follow in my mom's footsteps In the future, I plan to have to do this kind of thing every day of my life. I might as well start at a young age."

Dissecting animal parts doesn't bother her. "It's basically what you see in everyday life, just in a different form," she said.

Brittany Churchey, 11, used to tape up the limbs of her Barbies. Now she wants to be an orthopedic surgeon. The eyeballs didn't bother her.

"It's pretty disgusting but neat because you get to see the different parts of the body," she said.

"After the first incision it gets a little easier," said Katrina Honigs, 13. "At first it's gross."

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