MIDDLE TOWNSHIP - For a dozen college students each summer, the draw of the shore is less about the sand and more about observing the nuts and bolts of the medical profession at Cape Regional Medical Center.
The Cape May County hospital runs a Pre Med at the Shore program each July, attracting medical career-oriented college students who shadow professionals as they work, treat patients and interact with staff.
The long-running program, which has about 12 spots, has grown so popular the hospital filled slots in its 2014 roster last summer.
Program organizers say the up-close look inside the medical profession gives students an additional perspective as they pursue their careers.
It also offers insight that simply cannot be learned from a textbook.
"I think it humanizes the profession when they can see us at work and not just read about it or see it," said Dr. Donald Tomasello. "They get to see us as people who go to work, how we care for our patients and how we interact with each other and the staff."
Dr. Jeffrey Tenner, program director, said the experience often confirms students' interest in the medical profession.
"I think the program defines their interest one way or another, and usually in a positive way," he said.
And ultimately, Tenner says, he hopes some who finish their medical training consider returning to the area to practice.
"If somebody works in a community hospital, sees the friendly faces that are here, that may build enthusiasm for them to come back to the area. It's a great place to live," he said.
Tenner, of Upper Township, said he keeps in touch with some past participants who have entered medical schools and are training for their careers.
'It's rewarding to know they've accomplished what they set out to accomplish," he said.
Last year, the pre-med program ran from July 8 to 26 and included students from Richard Stockton College, Elizabethtown College, Kutztown University, Penn State, Princeton, the University of the Sciences, Loyola-Maryland, the College of William and Mary and Lehigh University.
Students observe multiple areas of Cape Regional Medical Center, the Hope Cancer Center, Rainbow Pediatrics and Cape Regional Physicians Associates surgical office, the hospital said.
"Many times it's career defining, and it sometimes is just the impetus to give them the confidence to go on," said Julie Paolella, director of volunteer services at Cape Regional.
Paolella said students observe different areas of the hospital, and serve as "comfort volunteers," which can include offering pillows to patients and their family members in the emergency department.
"The number of students are limited enough so that the doctors really get the opportunity to know the students," she said.
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To learn more
College students inquiring about the program or wishing to volunteer at other areas of the hospital may call Julie Paolella at 609-463 2367.