Vallejo students get first-hand look at medicine in Touro program

By Sarah Rohrs Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 07/19/2012 01:00:54 AM PDT

Thirsty for knowledge, Vallejo High School senior Carl Artist soaked up all he could about medicine, public health and osteopathic medicine through a summer internship program at Touro University.

Artist is undecided about his career path, and credits the summer program for giving him invaluable insight and knowledge about what it will take for him to succeed.

"This has been really, really interesting," Artist said of the four sessions involving advanced courses in health-related topics.

In four intensive sessions, nearly a dozen students from Vallejo High School's Biotech Academy, plus a few from St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School and Mare Island Technology Academy participated in the free program taught by volunteer Touro teachers.

For St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School student Soni Verma, the experience was "life-changing." The sophomore said she intends to pursue a medical career.

The teen said she had never seen or touched a human brain before, something she got to do last week during a session on neuroscience in the Touro anatomy lab.

"It's so gooey. It's hard to believe this is something that's actually inside us," Verma said of the human brain. "It's really cool."

Touro Associate Professor Shin Murakami said he helped create the program, that ended Wednesday, to expose students to aspects of the health and medicine field they would normally not receive in high school.

It is the first partnership Touro created with the Vallejo High School Biotech Academy to give students a look at various health professions. 

"They have actually seen real things that they would experience in medical school but in a friendly way," he said. 

Student Christian Pitayo said the four sessions gave him insight into what is expected in training as a laboratory technician. 

One valuable part of the event was to combine traditional "textbook" material with a chance at hands-on activities. 

Students, for instance, were able to perform physical therapy on one another as part of the lesson on osteopathic medicine. 

In her session, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Janet Burns said she discussed preventative medicine and its impact on the body. 

"We talked about the impact of having a crooked body and that kind of negative impact on your health," she said. 

Through manipulations, movement, stretches and massage, students learned that osteopathic medicine helps put and keep the body in better alignment, she said. 

On the program's last day, students took a global look at health and how careers in this field allow practitioners to have a wider impact on poor communities. 

Professor Eiman Mahmoud told students the vast majority of money and research in medicine is spent on a small portion of the world's population residing in affluent countries. 

People in developing countries (also known as Third World countries) have limited access to clean water, and basic health care and access to those could prevent scores of deaths, and injuries, she said. 

Murakami said he hopes to hold a similar program next summer. One goal is to create a "big loop" in which students obtain their Bachelor of Science degrees and then come to Touro to study medicine and health, he said. 

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.


Vallejo High School students Carl Artist (left) and Christian Pitayo practice physical therapy on each other, along with other students who took part in the Touro University Biotech Academy summer internship program.
Vallejo High School students Carl Artist (left) and Christian Pitayo practice physical therapy on each other, along with other students who took part in the Touro University Biotech Academy summer internship program.