For a select group of local teenagers, a week spent cutting up pig hearts and stitching pig feet was a highlight of their summer break.

Picking at pig parts, gruesome to some, was part of a crash course in medical school for two dozen students, most of whom will be juniors and seniors at Air Academy High School.

“It’s a good way for me to figure out if I’m really interested (in medicine) or not, and so far I like it,” said Greg Dotseth, 16, an Air Academy junior. “It’s not a waste of my summertime.”

The camp was a mix of hands-on experience and lectures. Students dived into medical case studies and gave presentations to each other; worked with ultrasound and heart monitors; and dissected the pig hearts and learned to sew up wounds using the pig feet.

Each student paid $40 for the camp, which went toward supplies and background checks for the instructors. Some of the supplies, including the medical equipment, was donated for the students’ use.

“I spoke to as many people as I could until I got what I needed,” said Austin Badeau, who organized the camp, wrote the curriculum and wrangled volunteers.

He graduated from Air Academy in 2005 and continues to help at the school, including serving as boy’s soccer coach.

Badeau and the seven other camp instructors are heading into their second year of studies at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

The university requires medical school students to work on original projects. Badeau decided to focus on his alma mater, giving  students a glimpse at medical school, because he hadn’t considered a career in medicine when he was younger.

“I want them to be a little more jazzed about the science they are learning,” Badeau said.

It was an incredible experience, said 17-year-old Katie Tougas, an Air Academy senior.

“I could study some of this stuff for the rest of my life and still be interested,” she said.

The instructors didn’t hold back with the teenagers, essentially condensing large portions of a first year medical student’s studies into one intense week.

Writing the curriculum was a challenge, Badeau said, but the students were smart enough to grasp the material.

It was an eye-opening experience for Elysia Mantaro, 15. The Air Academy junior plans to become an Army nurse, and said she learned a lot about the integration of science in the field of medicine. It’s a lot more than anatomy, she added.

The teenagers weren’t the only ones learning.

“I have a new appreciation for teachers,” Badeau said.

He is thinking about ways to reach more students with his program, and plans to hold another medical camp next summer.

The medical students are in a good spot to speak to the teenagers, he said, because it hasn’t been too long since they were sitting in high school classes.

His advice to high school students is simple.

“Find the thing you’re passionate about and pursue it.”

Contact the writer at 636-0162.