As part of the Sciences and Medicine Academy Medical Careers Program, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) has opened its doors for more than a decade to students from Thomas Edison High School in Bethesda, Md.
Kristine Mansky and Maureen Wallerstedt, registered nurses and medical careers instructors at Thomas Edison, have been bringing students from the school to the former National Naval Medical Center, now WRNMMC, since 1992. For the past 25 years, Thomas Edison students interested in entering the medical profession have participated in the year-long program.
“The curriculum was pretty challenging compared to my regular classes,” said Irene Luna, a 17-year-old high school senior who participated in this year’s program, which ended earlier this month. All of the students must complete Montgomery College courses in language medicine and CPR. After completion in the program at WRNMMC, they are registering to become certified nursing assistants (CNAs).
Marcus Clarke, 18, said he plans to study pre-med biology next year in college. “I knew since I was 10 that I wanted to do something in the medical field,” said Clarke. He added participating in the Sciences and Medicine Academy Medical Careers Program and coming to Walter Reed Bethesda weekly increased his enthusiasm to pursue a career in medicine.
Lt. Cmdr. Ursula Galvez, a perioperative nurse at WRNMMC, served as a lead instructor for this year’s program. She said it is important to have the program at Walter Reed Bethesda because it exposes the students to many different medical professions, and offers them an opportunity to learn from each. She said WRNMMC staffers also learn from the students.
“We have many young surgical technicians who are challenged by some of the questions students may ask,” said Galvez. She said students with whom she mentored were fascinated by a heart surgery and enjoyed spending time in orthopedics.
Many of the students who completed the program have continued to work in the medical field, according to Mansky. During a visit to an operating room this year, she ran into one of her former students, Karina Clerge, who participated in the medical career program and is now a WRNMMC nurse.
Clerge said working at Walter Reed Bethesda is a way to give back to the same military that saved her native country, Grenada, in 1983, when the U.S. military helped restore a constitutional government in the island nation.
“I knew I always wanted to be a nurse and I was really excited because [the Sciences and Medicine Academy Medical Careers Program] gave me an opportunity to explore what I really wanted to do,” Clerge added.
According to Mansky, the Science and Medicine Academy Medical Careers Program shows the great work and outreach of the Walter Reed Bethesda community. “Both staff and students learn, share and grow during the program,” she said.