PORTLAND — Like most high school sophomores, Kelsey Leeman isn’t sure what she wants to be when she finishes growing up.

She’s uncommonly focused, however. At the moment, it could be pathology or forensic medicine.

Leeman is one of more than 40 members of a Medical Explorers group sponsored by Maine Medical Center. The explorers are high school students from around southern and coastal Maine who meet each Wednesday night at the hospital and get an inside look at, and often hands-on experience with, all kinds of medical careers, from neurosurgery to emergency response.

“You get to see all the different aspects,” said Leeman, who lives in South Bristol and attends Lincoln Academy.

“When the doctors come in and talk to us, you get to see, ‘Do I really like this? Or, do I like this part more than that part?’ “

Exploring is an offshoot of Boy Scouts of America and part of a national program called Learning for Life. There are all kinds of Explorer posts, each one focused on a particular professional field.

High school students who join get to see if they really want to be a police officer, an airline pilot or an engineer, and come away with knowledge and experience that helps them achieve those goals if they do.

The Medical Explorers is a popular post, thanks at least in part to television shows such as “CSI” and “ER.”

That’s a good thing, as far as Maine Medical Center is concerned, given the looming shortage of doctors and other medical care providers.

“There’s so much out there,” said Laura Marles, a surgical technologist at the hospital and one of the advisers of the post. “The goal is to expose these kids that are all interested in the medical field to as many medical disciplines as we possibly can.”

Marles and the other advisers recruit enthusiastic volunteers from around Maine Med and outside the hospital to talk about their work and the training involved.

On Wednesday, for example, the Explorers learned about the work of emergency medical technicians and tried out equipment that’s used to save lives and transport patients.

At one recent meeting, the students took over an operating room that was set up for surgery.

They even got to put their hands into the “da Vinci robot” and attach screws and plates to simulated bones.

Surgeons use the da Vinci Surgical System for heart procedures and other operations.

The Medical Explorers post was started in 2004 by Stephen Heim, an Explorer-turned-surgical technologist who moved out of state recently.

Marles and two co-advisers took over in December.

For Leeman, the sophomore from South Bristol, the weekly trip to Maine Med has been well worth it.

She remembers being interested in shows about surgery and medicine even when she was a little girl, Leeman said. Now, she’s planning to get a pre-medical degree after high school.

“With (Explorers), I’ve really been able to say to myself, ‘This is what I really want to do.’ “

 

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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