Students shadow pros on path to medical future

HARLINGEN — Amanda Cariaga didn’t know what to expect when she first shadowed a local veterinarian.

But three weeks later, she’s beyond excited and thrilled — she’s focused.

“I helped a dog give birth to a litter of puppies,” said Amanda, 17, a senior at Harlingen School of Health Professions.

Amanda and her fellow seniors spoke Tuesday at the Practicum Commencement.

The event was especially noteworthy because they are members of HSHP’s Legacy Class, the school’s first graduating class.

Since enrolling as freshmen, they’ve been studying numerous fields of medicine.

All their long hours of study have led to this year’s practicum in which they’re shadowing medical professionals.

The students, decked out in blue medical uniforms, spoke to school board members, medical professionals, educators and parents about their experiences.

“I have been given the opportunity to enjoy my clinical experience at the Harlingen Medical Center and I absolutely love it,” said Katelyn Grant, 17.

“Becoming a health care professional has been my dream since before I can remember,” she said. “With time my dream is now focused on neonatology, which is a subspecialty for ill or premature babies.”

Everyone in attendance listened in awe to the students, more than 80 of them, give their testimonials on their journeys toward the health professions.

“It was so inspiring,” said Tina Garza, principal.

“We were excited,” she said. “We were nervous. It was like children going off to the first day of school. They were so reaffirming. They began with the eighth grade all the way to the 11th grade and preparing for this experience.”

Burgeoning pharmacists also spoke about their new profession.

“They do a lot more than what I previously thought they do,” said Sean Turrubiates, 17, who is shadowing several pharmacists.

“I thought it was just refilling prescriptions from the doctors,” he said. “But some pharmacists will custom tailor medications to meet patients’ needs. You have to learn all kinds of formulas.”

The students all conveyed a thorough knowledge of their field even at the very early stages of their training. The practicum will extend that knowledge to the next level, said Harlingen School Board President George McShan.

“This will allow them to not only understand the theory of what they’re learning in class, they can see what happens in a cath lab, in surgery,” he said. “They will be prepared to go on to college.”

Amanda seems to be gaining a great deal of understanding about her new field. Friday afternoon she was working with “Stitch” during her practicum at Altas Palmas Animal Clinic. Although Stitch showed a rather docile demeanor, its claws were a little sharp, too much for the dog’s owner.

“They can’t have nails that are sharp,” Amanda said as she and an employee at Altas Palmas lifted the dog onto a table.

Amanda picked up a small electrical tool and Stitch sat still as her nails were filed down for a smoother edge.

Now she moved on to the next task with another clinic employee, testing the ear wax of a cat for mites. A sample had already been placed on a slide ready for further examination. She showed boundless energy as she strove to learn all she could from the experience.

Earlier, she spoke with great passion about her experiences shadowing a veterinarian. She felt warmed by the affection of the veterinarian toward his patients and their owners. He showed compassion toward the dog Amanda worked with.

“The puppies,” she said. “The mother had been in labor for three days. The owner didn’t have money to induce labor. So he (veterinarian) did it pro bono.”

This seemed to have endeared her even more toward the profession.

“He wanted what was best for the animal,” she said. “I feel proud, very privileged to have experienced all this for the first time.”

And college?

“Texas A&M College Station,” she said with a quick smile.

Sample of Practicums

– Dentistry

– Orthopedics

– Veterinary Medicine

– Pharmacy

– Radiology

– Emergency Room

– Day Surgery

– Physical Therapy