Medical field beckons teen
WRITTEN BY Julie Drake
Palmdale High School senior Andrew Lozano never considered a career in medicine because he didn’t think he could handle the blood.
But experience gained through Palmdale High’s award-winning Health Careers Academy has changed Andrew’s perspective. Now the 17-year-old is looking toward pursuing a career as a neonatologist.
A neonatologist is a medical doctor trained to handle complex, high-risk cases involving newborns, including those born prematurely or with a serious illness. Andrew job-shadowed in the neonatal intensive care unit at Antelope Valley Hospital last year.
There, Andrew saw babies who were born a month or two premature.
“I didn’t think a baby could be outside the womb that big. They literally could fit in your hand,” Andrew said.
Seeing the tiny, helpless babies with tubes sticking out of them made Andrew realize that somebody has to treat them. He didn’t work with the babies but watched the doctors who did.
Andrew was first introduced to the field when his little brother, Joseph, was born. Joseph, 5, was born about three or four weeks premature. Andrew was 11 years old at the time.
“I was the youngest until him and then I always used to say I wanted a little brother, and then he came along,” Andrew said, adding that his parents adopted Joseph.
Having a younger brother “has its pros and cons,” Andrew joked. Andrew also has three older siblings: a sister and two brothers who are both in the military.
The teen has been a member of the Health Careers Academy for four years.
“I like being involved in school so it seemed like a good program to be involved in,” Andrew said. “I didn’t even know what I wanted to do yet but I just figured, ‘Why not give it a try.’”
The academy offers a comprehensive, four-year curriculum combining core academics with increasingly challenging technical instruction in many aspects of the health care professions.
The academy’s freshman and sophomore students participate in field trips to medical facilities and hear guest speakers from a variety of professions and medical teaching environment.
Students in their third year of the program job-shadow professionals in more than 20 health-related professions in local hospitals and clinics and continue with volunteer opportunities.
As seniors, academy students participate in internships and put together a community awareness project that involves juniors.
Andrew realized he not only could do health care but that he liked it, too.
The academy also helped Andrew develop his leadership skills.
“It’s given me more empathy and compassion for patients,” Andrew said.
Last year Health Careers Academy students worked in convalescent homes. That helped teach the students about caring for other people, Andrew said.
“I think the thing that sticks out the most to me about Andrew is that he has sincerity; he demonstrates respect, professionalism and most of all integrity,” said Angela Hefter, lead advisor for Palmdale High’s Health Careers Academy.
As a member of the Health Careers Academy, Andrew competed at the 2013 Health Occupations Students of America State Leadership Conference in Sacramento in March, where he won a gold medal in Medical Law and Ethics. He placed in Medical Law and Ethics at the national conference in Nashville in June.
Andrew is co-editor of Palmdale High’s yearbook and is treasurer of the school’s Link Crew, a mentor program that pairs older students with freshmen to help them adjust to high school life.
Andrew is also the head trainer for the school’s sports medicine program. His focus is primarily on football.
Andrew hopes to attend Pepperdine University for his undergraduate degree. He has set his sights on Harvard, the No. 1 medical school for pediatrics, for his medical degree.
“That’s where I’m shooting for. I’ll just see where I land,” Andrew said.
Andrew was recently featured in a segment of KABC-TV’s “Cool Kids” series, which honors youth who help out in their community.
For now, Andrew is focusing on his schoolwork and trying to learn as much as he can from the academy.
“Everything I learn is going to help me,” he said.
Andrew is interning at Joshua Medical Group, a family practice office in Palmdale.
“He’s awesome. He gives you hope for the future,” said Michelle Flores, the medical assistant supervisor who works directly with Andrew. “He’s a good kid, and he’s a great student.”
Andrew said his favorite subjects in school are generally science classes.
He likes the variety of things he has learned as a member of the Health Careers Academy.
He plans to enter the Medical Law and Ethics event at the 2014 Health Occupations Students of America State Leadership Conference to defend his gold medal. Andrew also is considering entering the prepared speaking contest.
For that, Andrew has to prepare a speech on HOSA’s 2014 theme, “The Future Starts Now.”
“It’s a little bit different than the skills event because the skills event you just go down the list and make sure you get everything,” Andrew said. “With speaking it’s more about (the judge’s) opinion and how they feel about your speech. You’re a little bit more vulnerable.”
As a member of the Health Careers Academy Andrew is required to complete a senior project. His project’s focus is on autism awareness, and he is helping to organize an art show in February with art themed to autism.
The hope is to raise money for Autism Speaks, an autism science and advocacy organization.