On a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of their summer vacation, a group of high school students passed around a recently dissected brain in a lab at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford.
"OK, so who has the brain?" Katie Shirley, a second-year medical student, asked the group.
One student raised his hand.
"Now, where would you find the auditory cortex?" Shirley asked.
As the students identified the lobes and examined the folds of the brain, Matthew Tribble, also a second-year medical student, explained that the teens were doing the same anatomy lab given to first-year students in medical school.
The 25 student participants are part of Rowan R.A.I.S.E., a six-week mini-med program that began July 10 at the medical school. Mini-med programs allow high school students to experience medical school years before they apply.
The free program is funded through a $40,000 grant from the Kal and Lucille Rudman Foundation.
"I've always wanted to go into medicine, and I saw the opportunity," said Christopher Jones, 17, a rising senior at Sterling High School from Stratford. "This is right around the corner from my house, and I just figured this would be a good opportunity to get exposed to it before I head to college."
Tribble, a program coordinator for Rowan R.A.I.S.E., said: "It's really doing a complete med school immersion. There'll be some lectures to support it, but mainly they're going to do a lot of critical thinking on their own, arriving at what's wrong with the patients."
"They'll get the whole … experience here, as if they're in school," he added.
The program's name stands for Recognizing Achievement and Inspiring Student Excellence. This year it drew students from nine area high schools who have shown an interest in medicine.
"This is the first time I've ever done a summer program," said Vincent Flores, 17, of Stratford. "I've always wanted to be a doctor of some sort, and recently I decided that I want to become a dentist."
"I'm most excited for the hands-on dissections and actually looking at things," said Mary Renner, also 17, of Sicklerville. "You can read something 10 million times, but until you actually see it in front of you, that's what makes a difference."
Each week of the program focuses on a different bodily system. Students will also participate in their own research project, hear from faculty at the school, and go on field trips to the Mütter Museum and Rowan University's main campus in Glassboro.
Lucille Rudman calls the program "comprehensive and intensive."
Through their foundation, she and her husband support other mini-med programs in Philadelphia. Rudman said the program with Rowan is their "first foray into New Jersey," where the couple live.
At Drexel University's College of Medicine, the Rudman Foundation sponsors Mini-Med Discovery Days. The free program for students from Masterman and Central High schools allows students to shadow doctors.
It also has provided more than $500,000 in college scholarships to students from Olney Charter High School and Kensington Health Sciences High School who have completed the Health Tech Mentorship program at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.