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Hands-on look at health care
Northside program encourages students
Explorers WEB 1
As part of the Healthcare Exploring Program, Lambert High students Jordan McKissock, left, and Kelsey Duttenhofer practice balancing techniques used by physical therapists Thursday at Northside Hospital-Forsyth. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Dressed in matching blue scrub tops, several teenagers donned goggles and tried balancing on wobbly rubber disks.

They giggled and talked excitedly as a physical therapist advised them.

In another corner of the room, a few others sampled thickened apple juice used by speech language pathologists to help patients who are having trouble swallowing.

“It’s like drinking apple juice through a straw,” commented Beni Kozen, a senior at Lambert High School.

The teens are all part of a program at Northside Hospital that teaches them about various medical careers.

Called the Healthcare Exploring Program, it meets one night a month for six months. 

Kelli Buchwald, Northside’s community relations manager, said this is the second year for the program, which is offered in conjunction with Boy Scouts of America, although it is open to both boys and girls.

“Last year, we had about 40 kids and we figured out that was too many for the hands-on offerings, and we wanted to focus on the hands-on courses,” she said. “So this year we have 24 students and that seems to be the right number.”

The students, many of whom attend Forsyth County high schools, rotate to various Northside facilities in Atlanta, Alpharetta and Cumming.

Thursday night they were at Northside-Forsyth, learning about genetics and physical, occupational and speech language therapies.

Buchwald said the program can help students find career paths they may not previously have considered.

“Especially for the kid who knows they want to be in health care, but are not sure exactly where, this program gives them a glimpse into a lot of different things and can help them decide where they want to be,” she said.

Students seemed to agree.

Arav Thandani, a sophomore at South Forsyth High, said he wanted to take part in the program because he’s “always been interested in the medical field.”

“But I’m not sure which field in medicine I wanted to go into,” he said “There were two or three that were really fascinating.”

Kozen felt the same.

“This gives me a jump-start on learning about all the medical options that are out there,” she said.

So far in the program, students have also learned about cardiology and robotic surgery.

Classes in February and March will include radiology, pharmacy and women’s services. In April, the group will take part in a graduation ceremony.

Thandani and Kozen said robotic surgery has been their favorite program so far.

“I had never learned about that before and it was really neat to be able to play with the machines,” Kozen said.

Thandani was so inspired by the session, he said he’s fairly certain he wants to be a surgeon.

“My parents will be really happy if I’m a surgeon,” he said.

Sydney Giddens, a sophomore at Forsyth Central, was pleased with Thursday’s session.

She said physical therapy and sports medicine are the areas in which she’s most interested.

“I definitely wanted to learn more about physical therapy because it relates to sports, and I kind of want to do therapy on sports athletes,” she said.

Buchwald said the program is beneficial for the health care industry because it opens students’ eyes to a number of possibilities.

“The majority of people think of doctors and nurses, but we can show them things like speech therapists or people who work in rehab, or pharmacists or people who work in the labs,” she said.

“We’re showing them a large array.”