Countywide : Teens Learn Medicine by Doing

High school senior Dawn Sneed assumed she would just watch the doctors treat cancer patients when her internship at FHP Hospital in Fountain Valley rotated to the oncology ward.

Instead, she was told she would take every patient’s vital signs. A nurse showed her how to use the equipment and gave her a white lab coat.

“It was just like dress-up,” Sneed said of the uniform that marks doctors everywhere. “I got to put it on and think that some day I would have my own.”

Sneed was one of 21 Orange County high school students who started the long years of study and training required for a medical career by interning at FHP.


The students were scattered at various sites belonging to the huge HMO, and tasks varied from hands-on experience with patients to office work.

Tina To, a Huntington Beach senior who plans to be a doctor, learned to negotiate the labyrinth of bureaucracy.

“It just helps inform me how careful the company is,” said To, who worked in the office that credentials doctors. “I guess it surprised me how much paperwork it takes to get hired by a company like this.”

To said she discovered the allure of science in eighth grade.


Another intern, Olga Tutulugdzija, had been leaning toward hotel management until she won her internship at FHP’s Specialty Center in Fountain Valley.

Now, she has decided to follow her mother’s example and take courses to become a registered nurse.

“When I saw nurses working with the patients, that inspired me,” said Tutulugdzija, a senior at Cypress High School.

Nursing would fulfill her desire to work with people but would not involve the frantic pace that doctors live, she said.


The intern also learned about the ups and downs of the job. “When I saw chemotherapy being done on a 2-year-old, that just broke me down,” she said.

Along with the emotional side of the job are the sacrifices, said Sneed, who talked with many doctors about their careers.

“They were saying you are going to have to put your family on hold a lot,” she said. Sneed already follows that code to some extent and does not have a boyfriend. “I don’t have time for that right now,” she explained.

The FHP program will conclude in about a week. Many of the interns, like Sneed, have no regrets about missing lazy summer days hanging out with friends at the mall.


“This is my first real job,” Tutulugdzija said. “I’m real sad that it’s over.”