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The Pomona Health Career Ladder summer program concluded its weeklong session Friday, June 21, 2019. About 35 middle school and high school students spent most of the week at Palomares Academy of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif. and their final day on the Western University of Health Sciences Pomona campus. They took a tour of the WesternU Pet Health Center, played “Jeopardy!” with anatomy-based answers, and learned about the organs and internal systems of various species in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s multidisciplinary classroom.

College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific students Anthony McCloud and Christopher Pann organized the middle school activities and College of Veterinary Medicine students Kyla Varagnat and Matthew Drozd organized the high school activities.

“The focus is to give them large, important concepts they can take with them into the next grade level to be a foundation for their education in health sciences in the future,” McCloud said. “I told them I want them to have fun but we also let them know the importance of doing something extra that other classmates are likely not going to be doing. This is going to prepare them for the coming year. It’s an advantage for them. Their education down the line will be easier.”

The students dissected rabbits, cow eyes and pig hearts. They played basketball and soccer as their WesternU mentors explained the different muscles used in each sport.

Diego Cruz, a ninth-grader at Arroyo Valley High School in San Bernardino, Calif., said he joined the summer program to gain experience. His favorite activity was dissecting a rabbit.

“I was able to see inside the animal and learn the anatomy of it for future reference,” he said.

Drozd said he wanted to give young students access to veterinary medicine so they can decide whether to pursue a health professions career.

“It’s summer. They are going to forget some of this, if not all of it,” Drozd said. “But the experience of having a week where they get their hands inside a rabbit and look at the intestines of a cat or dog will stay with them. Just the experience of all this is what my focus was on.”

“The more enthusiasm we can instill so they feel passionate about what they are learning, the more they will remember this amazing experience,” Varagnat said. “That is how you learn, when you are having a good time.

The Pomona Health Career Ladder is organized by WesternU’s Strategic Alliances, a division of the Office of the Provost.