An ‘inside’ look at medical jobs


The Mirror

A display of various human organs was both gross and cool, students touring St. Francis Hospital said last week.

Peter Benda, a pathologist at St. Francis, showed the middle-schoolers an eyeball, a kidney, an aorta, a uterus, lungs, a heart and a small intestine.

A few hung back, not wanting to get to close. But most of the students were intrigued, reaching out to touch the organs, take pictures with their cell phones and ask questions.

Benda used the opportunity to demonstrate to students why they shouldn’t smoke. He pointed out damage to the lungs and aorta due to smoking.

The tour was one of several this year that Federal Way students went on as part of the Health Adventures program, sponsored by St. Francis and the Boys and Girls Club.

About 10 middle school students from throughout Federal Way participate in Health Adventures each year. The group meets once a month, and the students are paired with an adult mentor from the community.

The meetings start off with a casual dinner, some health-related crossword puzzles or games, and a featured speaker from St. Francis. Each month, the students tour a different area of the hospital and talk with the staff about their careers.

The idea is to create interest in health careers and to show students the importance of doing well in math and science, said Terri Allen, a volunteer services coordinator at St. Francis.

The professionals tell the students how they use math and science in their jobs every day, making the subjects more purposeful for students, Allen said.

Last week, Sally Kramer, manager of laboratory services, spoke with students about careers in the lab. She explained the different positions and how much education was needed for each one. Lab workers rarely ever see patients, Kramer said.

“If you’re kind of an introvert and you just like that chemistry science, the lab is a good place for you,” she told the students.

Many of the students who participated since the program began seven years ago have gone on to pursue careers in the medical field, Allen said. Others have returned to the hospital as volunteers.

The monthly tours of various departments help children decide which medical career might fit them best.

So far this year, students have visited the surgery department, the emergency room, the birth center, diagnostic imaging, volunteer services, physical therapy and engineering.

Professionals in each department talk to students about the position.

The best part of the program are all the activities and demonstrations, said Miguel Manzueta, an eighth-grader at Sacajawea Middle School.

“You get to do lots of hands-on activities, unlike most programs where you just sit there and listen the whole time,” Manzueta said.

After completing the program, Manzueta said he will pursue a career as a dentist.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to be until I came here,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be in the medical field, but something where there’s no blood.”

Gordon Sabin, a seventh-grader at Saghalie Middle School, said the best part of the program was getting shock treatment in the physical therapy department.

“They did electric shock on your muscles,” Sabin said. “It like makes them go all weird.”

Even for students who don’t choose medical careers, participating in the program can be beneficial.

Kaari Burdsall, an eighth-grader at St. Patricks school in Tacoma, said she’s not sure what career she wants to pursue. But after participating in Health Adventures, she has seen the importance of math and science — and will continue to study hard in those subjects.

Contact Margo Horner: or (253) 925-5565.

Learn more

To learn about the Health Adventures program at St. Francis, call (253) 944-4176. The hospital is also seeking mentors for the program.

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