Mini Med School - Fun, Hands-on Exposure to the Medical Field for High Schoolers

By Kyle Enfield, Frank Lawson, & Caroline Bertrand

As career and technical education professionals, it is our experience that young people benefit from work-based learning and hands-on exposure to potential careers, and from opportunities to meet professionals in an informal setting. Research confirms that “interactive health related school activities” (Zayas & McGuigan, 2006) are effective in facilitating student interest in health professions in underserved communities. Confidentiality rules make internships and even field trips to hospitals challenging, so we bring medical professionals to our students instead. We call our program Mini Med School.

Western Albemarle High School is located near Charlottesville, which counts two hospitals and offers job opportunities to qualified workers in the medical field. Our school sits in the rural area, and we believe this program could inspire other rural schools. The school is growing its medical careers classes, and has developed Mini Med School, a program that helps students connect with professionals and explore careers in a meaningful way, without interfering with their studies, as recommended by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Torpey, 2015). Mini Med School consists of four evening sessions and one field trip, with curriculum designed with the help of passionate medical professionals.

Program Planning and Execution

This program was developed by a planning committee composed of medical professionals with different backgrounds, school career and technical education professionals, and a few students interested in the medical field. The committee met five times to design sessions, identify potential presenters, decide on possible activities and seek the materials needed. The students’ input was important: they insisted on offering obstetrics and midwifery for example, and nixed a public health presentation. Planning committee students also help run the sessions by leading a group through activities, making name tags, checking attendance, writing thank you notes, etc.

Our activities started with a keynote focused on why this field matters. The first night’s theme was “the brain” (with sessions on addiction, neuropathology, and mindfulness). The following evening was “trauma night” with the rescue squad’s equipment, skills and careers, and students practicing splinting and transporting. The helicopter emergency transport even chose that time to do a practice run and landed in the parking lot to the delight of students. Then we offered “Life Cycles”, with sessions on birth, sports medicine, cardiology and hospice. Finally, the last sessions covered “trauma skills” - suturing pig feet and practicing cricothyrotomy on pig tracheas. We also recommend future programs offer the field trip to the local medical school and nursing school, to see the simulation lab mannequins and the cadavers in the anatomy labs.

Recommendations for Future Adoption

We have now run the program three years in a row with 44 students each time. We've learned that everyone involved has a role and we offer the following suggestions to achieve the desired outcomes:

School Professionals:

  • You need a strong working relationship with energetic medical professionals comfortable with interdisciplinary teams
  • Emphasize exposure, not skills training. Make it fun; develop interest
  • Choose presenters that represent different medical fields and career specialties
  • Invite parents of current students
  • Offer hands-on as much as possible
  • Feed the presenters
  • The University encourages its employees to volunteer in the community. As a result, letters of acknowledgment were sent for the volunteers' file

Professional Presenters:

  • Define the session, how it should be taught, who should teach it
  • Teach skills in small groups, telling stories as you work
  • Bring models or equipment to explain procedures or terms


  • Attendance is taken because students receive a certificate of completion at the end
  • Students are upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) and are by definition interested in the field (priority is given to those taking a related class)
  • Students write thank you notes in class after each session.


Results and Rural Benefits

We would especially like to encourage schools in rural areas to create a program like this: rural areas need to grow their own professionals for fields such as teaching or health care. Our proximity to a large teaching hospital is an advantage but the rescue squad provides half of our sessions. Already some of our graduates have volunteered for the rescue squad as a result of meeting enthusiastic volunteers at Mini Med School.

Students have told us that attending Mini Med School convinced them to enter the medical field. We also believe that students who don’t choose to pursue a medical career in the future will feel more comfortable with the medical professionals they will inevitably encounter in life. This is an exciting and feasible way to introduce young people to a wide range of meaningful careers.

We were inspired by UVA’s Mini Med School and asked them for permission to use the name and create our own program for our high school students. Thank you University of Virginia! We hope other schools find the same inspiration.


For more information, see these resources:

Link to some pictures: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QcCXPEBTBDT6db32iA3ndXjk8zjAsk6M/view

Link to permission form: https://docs.google.com/document/d/142_NCxXpMpZ9WpxplDRkzIFUu_RpDuuCjRCS8hYjums/edit


Torpey, E. (2015, January). Career Planning for high schoolers. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/career-planning-for-high-schoolers.htm

Zayas, L. E. & McGuigan, D. (2006, September). Experiences promoting healthcare career interest among high-school students from underserved communities. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2569708/


Kyle EnfieldDr. Kyle B. Enfield, MD, MS, FSHEA, FCCM, UVA, is an Associate Professor of Medicine, Medical Director of Medical Intensive Care Unit, Co-Medical Director Special Pathogens Unit and Emergency Preparedness.

I moved to Virginia from Oklahoma where I attended the University of Oklahoma. I finished my undergraduate, graduate and medical degrees at the OU with field placement at the World Health Organization as part of my masters in epidemiology. After completing my residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia, my wife and I spent six months backpacking around the world. I currently work as an intensive care physician at the University of Virginia, and in my spare time enjoy Spartan Races and volunteering with my sons Cub Scout Pack where I am the Cub Master. ke4z@virginia.edu


Frank LawsonFrank Lawson is a Medical Careers Teacher (Anatomy and Physiology, Medical Terminology, Sports Medicine). He has worked in the Albemarle School System since 1987. He first came in as the head Athletic Trainer and then started teaching in 1990. Mr. Lawson recognized that many of his students had strong interests in various medical fields, and started offering medical classes such as Sports Medicine, then adding Medical Terminology and now Anatomy & Physiology, both dual enrolled with the community college. He is married to a UVA nurse with many years of connections who helped him recruit nurses and doctors from UVA to help start the WAHS Mini Med School. flawson@k12albemarle.org


Caroline BertrandCaroline Bertrand, Career Specialist, is the long time career specialist at Western Albemarle High School. She has enjoyed evolving with the position, from focusing on special education and at-risk students, to career awareness in collaboration with counseling, to the current orientation towards work-based learning and concrete experiences for students. She started the robotics competition club at WAHS, helped develop a tiny house building program in partnership with the CTE teacher and the construction industry, and learned a lot from helping with Mini Med School. cbertrand@k12albemarle.org


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