The Academy Difference: Giving High School Students a Taste of Medicine

The Academy Difference
The Academy Difference blog series explores how our faculty integrates the 6 “Cs” of Academy at the Lakes’ Core Curriculum. Our faculty ensures “the success of each individual at school, in the community, and in the world,” by connecting every classroom experience with at least one of our 6 Cs.  To learn more, visit our website.

Critical Thinking: Upper Division

Academy at the Lakes’ is offering an exclusive Introduction to Medicine Seminar for Upper Division (High School) students considering a career in medicine.

In this unique course, students have the opportunity for hands-on, medical training similar to what they would experience in a college or post-college course. The seminar is being taught by two M.D.’s who are part of the school community, parent Maggie LaPunzia Wells, M.D., and retired physician Dr. Lou MacManus.

This 10-week course explores each system of the body and gives students an overview of the different medical specialties career options. From ear/nose/throat to cardiovascular to the nervous system, students cover a different topic each week and listen to lectures, participate in dissections, use medical equipment, and hear from guest speakers.


Students were selected for the class through an application process that involved essays on topics such as their future goals; why they are interested in course; and why the course might help them. Science Department Chair Colleen McCormick, Head of School Mark Heller, and Dr. MacManus reviewed each applicant’s essays, grades, and previous coursework.

The idea for this seminar was hatched when McCormick told Heller of her plans to organize a trip to the University of South Florida’s cadaver lab.


“Mr. Heller said, ‘How can we make this bigger? How can we make this a class of its own?,” said McCormick.

Per Heller’s suggestion, Academy approached Dr. Lou MacManus about possibly teaching the program.

“Dr. Lou really took the bull by the horns and just went with it,” McCormick said. “She was really excited about it.”

Dr. MacManus developed the course curriculum and soon, Academy parent and Trustee Dr. Wells was on board as well. Both doctors are teaching the courses based on their particular experiences, an incredible benefit for the students.

Dr. MacManus has two specialties that she brings to the course: General Surgery and Ob/Gyn. Dr. Wells is board certified in Internal Medicine.

A couple weeks ago, the students involved in the program took the first of a series of field trips to USF where they worked with USF’s medical students in the cadaver lab.

During the experience, the high school students won’t actually cut into the cadavers, but they will be able to trace the systems as the medical students help review each anatomical system.


“I am so proud of our students and the opportunities we are able to provide for them,” said Heller. “Drs. MacManus and Wells are impressed by the quality of our Wildcats, and the students in turn are taking full advantage of the great learning resources at their disposal. I am thrilled with this program – it has the potential to inspire our students in life-altering ways.”

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