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Academy offers students glimpse of medical field

December 27, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Touching the human brain with their fingertips is an experience most high school students never have.

But some Academy of Medical Careers students would choose blood and guts over a textbook any day.

The North Hagerstown High School-based academy, which pulls from the county's eight high schools but is dominated by North High students, is made up of juniors and seniors pursuing careers in medicine or related sciences.

North Hagerstown High School junior Shanna Berry, 16, who hopes to become an anthropologist, said being a member of the medical academy has a lot of perks, including the chance to touch the human brain while on a field trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.

"I had gloves on so it wasn't that bad," she said.

The students take field trips to laboratories and hospitals, do internships at research centers and clinics and attend lectures on the how-tos and how-nots of performing check-ups.

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Lance Baker, North High science teacher and Academy of Medical Careers advisor, said, "This experience makes them either want to do it more or decide against it."

The academy is limited to the students who are its members, and to the confines of Baker's human anatomy and physiology class offered from 9 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. each school day.

The students in that room daily are six junior academy members. Baker no longer sees the 12 seniors every day. They've moved on to advanced placement or certificate of merit biology, chemistry or physics and don't come back to the academy unless there's a field trip or a guest speaker.

"That's our biggest challenge - getting more students," said Sharon Chirgott, school system academy director. Students who join any of the five academies also join the school with which it is affiliated.

The other four academies are The Academy of Manufacturing and Engineering Technology at Williamsport High School, The Academy of Pre-Engineering and Computer-Assisted Drafting and Design at Williamsport High, The Fire and Rescue Academy at Washington County Technical High School and The Academy of Finance at South Hagerstown High School.

Most students attending those academies already had been attending the base school.

The Academy of Medical Careers had one student from Clear Spring High School last year, Baker said.

"There are an awful lot of teachers that are unaware of the academies," Chirgott said.

In addition to maintaining at least a 2.5 grade point average, medical academy members are required to take AP statistics and AP psychology before graduating with academy status and must do an internship over the summer between their junior and senior years.

The academy graduated 12 students last June, all attended college this year and most are majoring in science, Baker said.

An advisory board interviews each academy member prior to acceptance. The advisory board is made up of about 15 education and professional community members who help fund field trips and extra perks for the academies.

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