High school students get hands-on experience with pathology, medical lab work

Mateo Salazar (left) has his throat swabbed as part of an exercise to teach students about...
Mateo Salazar (left) has his throat swabbed as part of an exercise to teach students about pathology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on October 17, 2019. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Oct. 17, 2019 at 5:51 PM CDT
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Students from across eastern Iowa took a field trip Thursday to learn about an important field of science.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics showed students some of the lab work that goes into diagnosing certain diseases.

Students participating in Workplace Learning Connection through Kirkwood Community College spent the day outside of the classroom and shifting their focus to Pathology Interest Day at the hospital. Staff at the hospital say there is a demand for young talent in the field, and some of those students say they might be the ones to join the ranks.

For a group of about 20 students traveling from as far as Monticello, they got a behind the scenes look at what some people consider the behind the scenes of medicine.

"People don't realize what happens to get a diagnosis," said Theresa Fruehling, a medical laboratory scientist at UIHC.

For Mateo Salazar, the day served as a chance to plan his future and prepare for what could come.

"I was hoping to just learn more about the pathology field," Salazar said, a high school sophomore at Washington High School in Washington. "Hopefully learn about certain undergraduates that I can do before I go into medical school for pathology."

Students were assigned to help "Sydney," a character in a case study to help students identify how and when to check for strep throat.

"It's important to know where your results come from, what we're looking for, how important the results are to us," Fruehling said.

Fruehling said getting more people interested in finding those results is incredibly important, because it will allow them and other area hospitals to fill a future void of doctors and other medical experts statewide.

"A third to half of our workers are going to retire over the next ten years, so we desperately need people," Fruehling said. "There are tons of positions. And that is why we want to get them excited, to let them know that this profession is out there."

Even as a high school sophomore, that task of entering pathology Salazar has already thought about taking on.

"I do think about that a lot," Salazar said. "I really feel connected with the hospital, so I think it'd be really cool if I was able to stay connected to this hospital and work for them."