Popular club allows Avon High School students to see medical field up close

Photo by Mike Sakal

Avon High School Senior Marissa Ptacek, 17, is pictured assimulating a suturing (surgical closing of a wound) procedure during the Avon Future Scholars of Medicine Club’s recent visit to Cleveland Clinic’s Avon Hospital. Pictured on the far right is Karin Danklefsen, a physician’s assistant.

AVON - It started out as a suggestion from Avon High School senior Marissa Ptacek. Now, it’s the bustling Avon Future Scholars of Medicine Club consisting of high school students interested in pursuing careers in health care.

Marissa, 17, went through a nine-week internship at the Avon campus of the Cleveland Clinic and its main campus on Cleveland’s East Side last summer. The internship exposed her to different medical procedures and she received hands-on experience by performing procedures. She also shadowed doctors and healthcare professionals, and observed surgeries.

Marissa’s friend, Westlake High School senior Jane Protos, also served a summer internship at the same time as Ptacek. Protos told Ptacek that she was in a medical club at her high school, but it wasn't too active.

Marissa’s work to get the club started in paying off: About 30 members of the Avon Future Scholars of Medicine recently received hands-on experience at The Cleveland Clinic's Avon Hospital. Students rotated around five stations to learn different procedures such as IV placement, bone marrow extraction, suturing (the closing of a wound) and intubation. They also toured the emergency and operating areas.

"It was a very interesting and eye-opening experience," said Avon freshman Sam Detillio, who wants to be a surgeon. "I liked the suturing most of all. I think it was the most hands-on. I'm thankful for the experience."

"I thought it would be cool if we had a club like that at Avon, but one that met regularly and did things that centered around the medical field," said Marissa, who said she would like to become a cardiovascular surgeon.

After her internship, Marissa participated in a nine-day National Student Leadership Medicine and Healthcare Camp at Northwestern University in Illinois that provided her with even more ideas for a club. Before the school year began, Marissa approached Deb Weaver, her anatomy and physiology teacher. After submitting a proposal to Avon High Principal Kristina Dobos Buller for support, the club — Avon Future Scholars of Medicine — was formed. Marissa and Weaver set up a table at the school's club fair at the beginning of the school year. The response was overwhelming.

"There were 150 students who signed up for the club," said Marissa, who is president of the club and would like to attend either Case Western Reserve or The Ohio State University. "It was amazing. Now we've formed a partnership with The Cleveland Clinic and we've been contacted by medical instructors at Lorain County Community College's Lifeshare Science and Education Center (at its Ridge Campus in North Ridgeville) to come shadow some of the medical students there. We're excited. We think that will be fun, too."

The Avon Future Scholars of Medicine meets the second and fourth Thursday of each month and its meetings are attended by about 50 students, Marissa said. The first meeting was informational, the second one involved working different medical stations inside the school's library and the third one was listening to staff from the Clinic speak about their careers.

Other club members include junior Cole Emerine, the vice president; sophomore Bailey Gillespie, the social media director; senior Jenna Maruskin, treasurer; and senior Halle Molnar, the club's secretary.

Marissa said that she has been interested in the medical field since she was little, and when she witnessed a neurosurgeon perform a spinal surgery at Clinic's Mayfield Village campus two years ago, it solidified her interest in pursuing a career in the medical field.

Cole, 16, said he is interested in pursuing medical research.

"I want to help people understand what they are going through," Cole said. "I would like to do cancer research and see if I can a way to cure it. This club is perfect for me. I'm learning things that I can't learn in a classroom."

Weaver, who is the advisor of the club, said it's great to see a club for a growing field in the region.

"I believe exposure is important in helping the students understand the options that are available for them," Weaver said. "There's more jobs out there in the medical field than just being a nurse or a doctor.

"The club has established a sense of community in the school building," Weaver added. "It's great to see such a large group of kids sharing common interests,"

The sentiments of Stephanie Neff, the nursing manager of the Clinic's Emergency Department echoed Weaver's.

"This is really a great collaboration between the school and the hospital," Neff said. "It provides a pipeline for future healthcare workers and gives the students a snapshot of what we're doing here. The students get to see things early on, and that helps them determine what areas they could be interested in."

Contact this reporter at msakal@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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