The baby lies on the hospital bed laboring to breathe as Harmonie Hammonds listens to its chest with a stethoscope.
“Does it sound like he’s wheezing?” asks Aubrey Armento, a rising second-year student at Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University.
A crowd of students around the bed in the Interdisciplinary Simulation Center murmur their assent.
It is the first time 15-year-old Harmonie, of Aiken, has had a chance to use a stethoscope, and she thinks it will help her as she seeks to become a pediatrician.
“To know what sounds a baby will make going into distress,” she said.
Harmonie was in a group of about 100 high school students who visited GHSU on Tuesday as part of the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine. The students were from a program based in Atlanta, one of 10 held across the country, which seeks to provide students interested in the medical field an early taste of what might be ahead. It does pay dividends for the students later on at MCG, said Wilma Sykes-Brown, the director of Diversity Support Services at MCG.
“We’re starting to see more of our people have been in” the program, she said.
Two of the students in her class went through it, said second-year medical student Amber Henson, who helped coordinate the visit for the program. MCG has played host to the program since 2003, Sykes-Brown said.
Going through the simulator center allowed students to work with lifelike patients that can take in oxygen and realistic-looking fake blood, and that can improve or crash and die based on their treatment, said Brenda Wilson, the director of the center.
High school students entering college and then medical school face a number of issues, including debt once they graduate. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that graduates from a public medical school in 2011 had a median debt of $155,000 and private school graduates owed $180,000. About a quarter of public school graduates owed $200,000 or more and 45 percent of private school graduates had that level of debt.
After talking to several physicians and being told he could face that kind of debt load, Forrest Thompson decided his path to college and then medical school led through the Navy.
Thompson, 19, of Walterboro, S.C., said he plans to serve four years as a corpsman or combat medic before heading off to college and, he hopes, a career in emergency medicine.
“I figured go out and put in my service and put in my time and they’ll pay for college,” he said.