Camp Medicine provides a healthy dose of learning for Bayside students

During a 10-day trip to Grenada, Hunter Shirley snorkeled, hiked the rain forest and attended a dinner cruise with about 80 of her peers.

But those experiences were not what she’ll remember most about the Caribbean country. Instead, the teen recalls suturing dog and cat cadavers, learning how to care for farm animals and feeling a live cow’s stomach.

“I would leave again tomorrow if I could,” said Hunter, 17. “It was depressing when I got home.”

About 20 students from Bayside High School’s Health Sciences Academy attended Camp Medicine earlier this summer. St. George’s University hosts the annual camp, which has premedicine and preveterinary medicine components.

“They’re touching brains and hearts… It’s just so different from just listening to a lecture,” said Luisa Zirkle, a trip chaperone and academy teacher.

About 50 Bayside students have participated in the camp over the past three summers. This year’s high school session ran from June 27 to July 6.

For many participants – including teens from Canada, England, Ghana and Scotland – the most exciting part of the experience was working with cadavers and organs.

“I wasn’t sure how I would handle the cadavers at first,” said Mark Gemender, 17. “The first time we went in there, none of the cadavers had their heads. Believe it or not, that made it a little less freaky.”

Mark and the other premed students also took each other’s blood pressures, learned how to use a stethoscope properly and diagnosed “patients,” among other activities.

“It definitely made me feel even more confident… It felt real,” said Meghan Gawne, 17.

This past spring St. George’s extended its relationship with Bayside beyond summer camp. The university has agreed to offer admission in its medical or veterinary schools to academy graduates who meet particular criteria.

“They have come down and really impressed us,” said Bob Ryan, the university’s associate dean for enrollment planning.

Bayside is the only high school St. George’s has an agreement with, Ryan said.

The conditional agreement requires students to graduate from the academy with a minimum 3.4 grade point average and a SAT score of 1800 or higher. They must maintain a 3.2 GPA while earning an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. Interested students should also take the Medical College Admission Test.

The class of 2007 is the first eligible group. Sixteen of those students have fulfilled the initial criteria.

Hunter, Mark and Meghan – all seniors at Bayside – said they’ll keep the offer in mind. However, the cost of flying to visit their families, as well as other factors, might deter them from enrolling.

Zirkle, Bayside’s academy coordinator last school year, considers St. George’s “a great option” for academy students.

“It’s a beautiful school, state of the art.” she said. “But I think most of the kids would probably say that they’ll try to get into a medical school here.”

Published September 1, 2007 By Hattie Brown Garrow, The Virginian-Pilot