TAMPA — High school students leaning toward careers in health care got a behind-the-scenes look at one of the nation’s top cancer institutes Monday.
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, on the campus of the University of South Florida, opened its doors to more than 20 students in the university’s Health Professions Summer Academy, members of the summer Brain Expansions Scholastic Training program, and a few individuals who earned invitations because of their interest and scholastic achievement.
The two summer programs share a goal of increasing college-preparation skills for students interested in medical fields.
“We feel that it’s our social responsibility, being one of the leading cancer centers and research institutes, to provide awareness, access and education to students that want to pursue a career in health care,” said Nikki Ross-Inda, coordinator of Moffitt’s Healthy Kidz program.
While many teens might be sleeping in, hitting the beach or playing video games, “They’re taking a portion of their summer time off to come and spend a day to learn more about the STEM fields,” said Ross-Inda, referring to science, technology, engineering and math.
The students heard from a motivational speaker and created awareness campaigns including posters on lung cancer, breast cancer and alcoholism.
On the research side, there was a visit to Moffitt’s wet-bench research labs and a gee-whiz demonstration at a flow cytometry lab. On the patient-care side, students visited the center’s Arts in Medicine studio and got a walk-through of the infusion center.
The human toll of the disease was also evident: a group of students passed by an obviously distressed patient doubled over in a wheelchair. That prompted a discussion of the effects of chemotherapy on the body.
“It was very helpful,” said Angel Fennell, who will be a junior this fall at Blake High School in Tampa. “I got a lot of information that will help me think more of my career and what I want to do in life. I have a lot of time to think about it.”
Qaseem Wajd, who will be a junior this fall at Tampa Preparatory School, recently lost a relative who had been treated at Moffitt.
“It’s pretty interesting to see what exactly is going on here — even though she passed, what they were trying to do,” he said.
Laura Pena, an incoming senior at Robinson High School, said she is mostly set on becoming a pediatrician, but the experience was valuable.
“It’s giving me all this different information that can then help me decide what is truly my passion,” she said.
“Although I really am an advocate for pediatrics and everything that has to do with little kids.”
Moffitt Healthy Kidz hosts high school students several times a year. The program is best known for its outreach program providing healthy lifestyle education.