Carla Tipiani-Tumen, a rising junior at Clarke Central High School, is working toward her goal of becoming a psychiatrist. She is taking health classes at the Athens Community Career Academy and is learning about the medical profession.
When she signed up for the University of Georgia’s Mini Medical Camp, she knew she would learn more about the path to medical school. But she was excited to find herself practicing sutures and interacting with a simulated patient.
“It really surprised me that we learned how to suture skin and practiced it. I never would have expected to learn to do that,” she said. “We also got to talk to the patient dummy. I got the hang of it, and it was really fun.”
Tipiani-Tumen joined about 30 other high school students this summer for a June session of UGA’s Mini Medical Camp. The weeklong program is offered five times throughout the summer to groups of 30 middle or high school students. University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education has offered Mini-Medical School camp through Summer Academy since 2008. The collaboration with Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership expanded the curriculum and enabled medical partnership students to provide instruction.
“We founded the camp because we wanted to create a place where kids felt welcome in medicine, letting them know that this is a field for them,” said Tai Sherman, the Medical Partnership’s campus director for external affairs. “We wanted to give them a first introduction to the field of medicine that was engaging, welcoming, empowering and let them know it was something you can do.”
The camp’s curriculum was designed by the medical students and based on the medical school’s curriculum. Campers receive their own stethoscopes, learn about one organ system each day, and use the Medical Partnership’s equipment to have hands-on lessons. In 2023, the Medical Partnership introduced more choice into the curriculum, allowing students to pick classes on ultrasound technology and wilderness first aid, among other topics.
The medical students who serve as camp counselors try to simplify complicated medical concepts. To teach campers how blood flows through the heart’s four chambers, the counselors draw the heart on the ground in sidewalk chalk. Campers assume different roles in the blood flow process and physically run through the diagram of the heart to mimic blood moving. Campers also complete a bone clone activity, where they use PVC material to resemble bones and identify how the bones fit together to form the body.
“It is very much a camp environment, but a lot of education is happening in a unique and novel way for campers,” said Justin Rowe, a second-year medical student and the camp’s director.
The camp builds on the Medical Partnership’s Pathways to Medicine Program, which offers mentoring and education to children in Athens-Clarke County. The Medical Partnership has developed relationships with local schools and organizations and provides scholarships to students at the Athens Community Career Academy, the Athens YMCA and the Double Helix STEAM School.
Tipiani-Tumen earned one of those scholarships. She said one of her teachers at the Athens Community Career Academy told her about the opportunity, and she benefited from attending the camp.
“I’ve always had career goals to be a psychiatrist, but the camp really did influence my future goals,” Tipiani-Tumen said. “The counselors let us feel free to ask any questions about medical school, and they shared with us the paths they took and what you need to do to become a medical student.”