By Christin Senior | July 22, 2016 10:29 am

“I’m glad I’m wearing gloves, because this does not feel good!” says Amanda Nieves, while trying to locate the pulmonary valve in the pig’s heart she is holding.

Despite the initial squeamishness, Nieves cannot hide her excitement while completing her first dissection under the supervision of a College of Medicine M.D. students. “It’s a really good experience. I am learning a lot and it is definitely a foot in right direction of me pursuing my dream of going into the medical field.”

Nieves is a senior at Orange City’s University High School and was one of 23 high school students from across Florida participating in Camp Cardiac recently. The one-week day camp open to high school students and is geared at preparing campers for medical careers focusing on the care and maintenance of the heart. The camp is held annually in over 30 cities nationwide and is run by local medical students. In Orlando, the camp was run entirely by students at the UCF College of Medicine. A second camp featured experiences in neurology.

Rising second year M.D. student, Steve Kong was the Cardiac Camp’s director.

“With the facilities here and the faculty at the College of Medicine, we were able to provide a detailed hands-on experience that they probably wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else,” Kong explained.

Campers enjoyed a series of engaging hands-on experiences like dissecting a pig’s heart, learning how to stitch a wound, CPR training, taking patient histories and performing basic routine physical exams. Campers were also assigned research projects and presented their findings at a symposium on the program’s final day.

Camper Kayla Portee of Winter Park High School wants to become a surgeon.

“I like how everything is very hands on and you learn a lot,” Portee said. “I really loved the heart dissection. Maybe, sometime in the future, studying at UCF will be a big possibility because it is such a great school,” he said.

Ashesh Soni travelled from Jacksonville, after being nudged by his sister, Michelle Soni, an alumna of the UCF College of Medicine.

“Being able to visualize and actually hold the heart in my hand, and seeing where everything goes was really amazing,” he said.

“Cardiology and medicine was always something that I was interested in, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do it as a career,” said Haryshwa Murugappan, a rising junior at Winter Park High School. “But after this week, it has really reinforced it and I know that this is what I want to do and what I want to study.”

The camp not only provided the teens with an opportunity to engage with and learn from medical school faculty and students, but allowed the promising med students to get a firsthand look at the College of Medicine and its facilities. For many, their interests were piqued.

“I’m increasingly interested in studying at UCF School of Medicine,” Murugappan added. “I didn’t consider it before the camp, but after this week, I was really surprised by what they have to offer and it’s definitely a possibility in the future.”

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