Local high school students considering careers in the medical field are spending the summer learning about their career choices firsthand.
The students are part of the AHEC of A Summer program, which provides an opportunity for high school students interested in health care to explore medical careers through hands-on experiences.
"This lets the students see which careers they are interested in so that they will have a better idea about their career paths and what it takes," said Debbie Bruchhaus, an instructor with AHEC, the Area Health Education Center.
For two weeks, the students — all juniors and seniors — have toured local health care facilities, listened to health care mentors and observed medical professions to learn more about potential careers.
The students also completed a case study project and learned first aid.
"They get to see a wide range of medical fields, not just in a hospital setting," Bruchhaus said.
Students are selected by an application process and receive a half-unit of elective credit, she said.
The program has been an eye-opener for 17-year-old Kaitlyn Guillot of Welsh.
"I learned what fields I want to work in and what ones I definitely don't want to work in," she said. "I definitely don't want to sit behind a desk. I want to be able to interact with people."
Guillot wants to be a pediatrician and plans to receive her medical degree from LSU-Shreveport.
Haden Cooley, 16, of Lacassine said he enjoyed going to the different medical facilities to learn about the various jobs and roles of health care providers.
Cooley has narrowed his career choices to an athletic trainer, physical therapist or a coach. During the program, he worked with an athletic trainer and a physical therapist.
Gina Myers, 16, of Hathaway has always known she wanted to be an obstetrician/gynecologist. The program confirmed her career choice.
"I got to actually see what the doctor does," she said. "My first day was with an OB/GYN, and it really interested me more than it did before actually seeing it firsthand."
Myers also learned that not all jobs in the medical field are exciting and that a lot of schooling is required for most positions. But that has not deterred her plans.
Joseph Landry, 16, of Lacassine has always been interested in the medical field, but was uncertain of what he wanted to do.
Landry has decided to become a doctor and is considering internal medicine or becoming a surgeon or optometrist.
He spent part of the summer shadowing Dr. Tim Barry of The Eye Clinic. He got to look at the eye under the microscope, learned about various eye diseases and saw the inside of an eye for the first time.
Page 2 of 2 - "Anyone who is thinking about a medical career should join the program," Landry said. "It is a big help."
Many former AHEC of a Summer participants have gone into the medical field after high school, Bruchhaus said.