Isabella Romero poked her scissors into the side of a sheep’s brain as she worked to dissect it. Though the activity might be disgusting to some, Romero, 15, an aspiring doctor, is practicing for her future.
The activity was among many she participated in as part of the weeklong Pre-Med Academy Camp at the University of Texas at Tyler.
The new camp for high school-aged students teaches them about the industry through labs, guest speakers and the opportunity to shadow medical professionals.
On Wednesday, Dustin Patterson, an assistant professor of biochemistry at UT Tyler, taught students about scientific methods and the importance of research in one session before leading participants through a lab procedure involving a cow heart. The cow heart pieces were liquefied in a blender and put through a process to isolate a specific enzyme.
“The cow heart is gigantic and so we had to cut parts of it out with scissors, and it was really fun,” Romero said.
Romero, who is going into 10th grade at the UT Tyler University Academy in the fall, is interested in becoming a cardiovascular surgeon.
“Two years ago, my grandma suffered a heart attack and she went in for an angioplasty,” Romero said. “And the doctor described it as her veins shattered.”
Romero said the incident piqued her interest and led her on a path to want to learn more about the heart and how everything works.
Allee Parker, 16, of Brownsboro, said she wants to become a registered nurse because of a desire to help others. Her favorite experience of camp was shadowing in an emergency room.
“I’m glad I signed up,” Parker said. “The experience at the hospital was great (and) the labs. It’s kind of cool to experience younger ... instead of waiting until you get older.”
Rachel Mason, UT Tyler chief health professions adviser, said the camp is a good opportunity for younger students to learn more about health professions because perception of the job can be different than the reality.
“That was one of our goals with the camp was to let them interact with practicing health professionals and get an idea of what it really looks like,” Mason said.
The camp is designed to support students interested in medicine and other health professions, including dentistry, ophthalmology and physical therapy, she said. The Pre-Med Academy plans to continue to have programs in the fall and next summer.
“We do have a strong health care industry in this region and that industry has increasingly been asking for programs that can help them have a strongly trained and educated base,” Mason said.