Valley high school students get a head start in the world of medicine

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MASH is paving the way for hundreds of Central Valley students like Hernandez to be leaders in the medical field. (KFSN)

At age sixteen, Audrieanna Hernandez is already working to become a rehabilitation therapist. The senior at Duncan Polytechnical High, a magnet school within Fresno Unified is in the Medical Academy of Science and Health (M.A.S.H) Program. It is paving the way for hundreds of Central Valley students like Hernandez to be leaders in the medical field.

For two years, Hernandez has studied how the body works and worked to help patients recover from injuries. Outside of the hands-on activities, the rising college freshman says the science-based course has broadened the scope of what she can do in the industry.

"It has showed me that there are a lot more activities in this field than I thought there was because usually when you think of rehabilitation you think just physical therapy but there is also occupational there's speech language pathology if that interest you but you don't really want to physical therapist you can also be an athletic trainer or just study exercise science there's just so much," said Hernandez.

Toby Garza is the instructor for rehabilitation therapy. He says the work does not just stop in the classroom. Many of the students are also working at various rehab facilities around town -- putting their knowledge to use.

"For me, exposure is the main thing for my students getting them out there and understanding what is available to them and especially when they tie in what I've lectured to what they are doing hands-on they go oh that makes total sense," said Toby Garza.

The story is the same just one door down, the students are in mash's nursing program. Their learning environment, resembling a hospital with beds and patients.

Amanda Aguilar is among this group of nurse assistants in training. They are in an isolation room performing oral care on a man who has an infection.

The experience, along with 100 off-campus job site hours is helping them prepare for the state's certified nursing assistant license test--something all in the course will take.

"Once we're done with that you graduate from here being a CNA so as soon as you get out you can start working," said Amanda Aguilar.

Laurie Wehner is the nursing instructor.

"I'm a nurse but nurses teach," said Wehner.

Students starting in ninth grade take foundation courses covering anatomy and physiology. Then, they learn how to assess patients and take vitals to measure what is going on in the body.

Wehner says teaching them about science and seeing the spark in their eyes fuels her.

"It's why I've been here 24 years because the minute you see that the minute you can see the glow and you can see the, oh I get it. It makes me want to run the race harder," said Wehner.

A race the students in both programs are running as well to fulfill their dreams.

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