Forget space camp.

A group of high school students are spending part of their summer at Harvard Medical School learning basic medical practices and training on simulators used by medical interns.

The camp, in its sixth year, is part of the MEDscience summer program and semester high school curriculum.

During the week-long camp, the teens are taught how to check vital signs, take a patient's medical history and what different medical tests mean.


A simulation is also part of the experience, in which the teens are given a patient dummy and one of their instructors provides the patient's voice through a speaker system.

Yesterday, Mayor Thomas Menino served as the "patient's" husband as he observed the students ask about her medical history, placed an oxygen mask on the dummy and reviewed test images. The program also offers semester courses in high schools in Boston and other nearby cities.

"You could teach blood flow on a chalk board, but they come down here and can see a patient [dummy] having a heart attack and it's closer to real life," said Julie Joyal, the program's lead teacher.

That hands-on experience helped guide some students to pursue a medical degree.

Jamar Jospeh, 18, took part in the summer camp in 2009 and now works as an assistant. He said he is attending Fitchburg State University in the fall with the hope of becoming a dermatologist or orthopedic surgeon.

"I could see it for myself ... what goes on behind the curtain," Joseph said. "Before the program I would have been pursuing medicine as a shot in the dark or going in blind."

Painful lesson

The mission of the program is to bring the teens closer to real life medical experiences.

With Mayor Thomas Menino there, they got just that.

While the mayor encouraged the group of teens to absorb all they can from the distinguished teachers and to stay in school through college, he also told them about his experience with kidney stones.

The simulation yesterday involved a patient suffering from gallstones.

Menino told the group how he suffered from his ailment.

"It's one of the most painful things, kids, let me tell you," he said.

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