Thirty students from central Ohio high schools recently received a firsthand look at life-saving medical procedures during the first "Learning for Life Exploring" program at the McConnell Heart Hospital at Riverside Methodist Hospital, 3535 Olentangy River Road.

Thirty students from central Ohio high schools recently received a firsthand look at life-saving medical procedures during the first "Learning for Life Exploring" program at the McConnell Heart Hospital at Riverside Methodist Hospital, 3535 Olentangy River Road.

The purpose of the program is to create interest among young people in the health care profession by engaging them with hands-on experiences, said Alyssa Fry, "Learning for Life Exploring" program senior executive.

"It'll give the students an opportunity to be exposed to the medical field at a young age," she said.

Students who applied to the program, which is sponsored by the OhioHealth community relations department and the Boy Scouts of America, expressed an interest in going into medicine. A panel of OhioHealth medical professionals reviewed applications and selected the students.

During the visit to the McConnell Heart Hospital, students observed how medical personnel respond to heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions. In the hospital's Center for Medical Education and Innovation, students interacted with human patient simulators that breathe, talk, bleed and are capable of more than 72,000 stimuli responses.

Students broke into small groups and attended sessions led by doctors, nurses and physicians' assistants. In one session, a nurse used one of the patient simulators to demonstrate how she administers anesthesia.

Another McConnell staff member enlisted students to help draw blood from a patient simulator, so that the blood could be cleaned and redistributed to the "patient" in order to avoid a blood transfusion from an outside donor.

Aishwarya Jha, a senior at Upper Arlington High School, said the experience provided useful information about the medical field. Although Jha wants to become a dermatologist and not a cardiologist, she said the hands-on experience in the operating room was invaluable.

"I'm glad I'm doing this at this age, so I could learn more about it," she said.

In another session, a nurse led students to a waiting room where they questioned a volunteer posing as a patient about heart attack symptoms. The students learned how to differentiate between cardiac arrest and other conditions with similar symptoms.

Dublin Coffman student Cameron Brown said he learned "how doctors have a relationship with their patients, how there's give and take."

A cardiologist conducted another session, showing the students how to insert a catheter near a patient's heart and inject dye to detect blockages. The cardiologist also demonstrated how to perform angioplasty and insert a stint to clear up blockages.

Bashir Mohamed of Westerville South, who is originally from Somalia, said participating in the "Learning for Life Exploring" program will help him realize his goal of becoming a doctor.

"I used to dream about it back when my family was in Africa," he said.

In future sessions, the students will participate in activities at Methodist Hospital in Dublin and other OhioHealth facilities.

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