Jessica Whelan, 16, once read her entire biology textbook for fun.
She is in the right place this week: Whelan said her decision to pursue a career in medicine has been reinforced by her experience at the University of Kentucky's Summer Enrichment Camp for high schoolers interested in health care.
Whelan, a student at Scott County High School, is one of about 25 high school sophomores from across the state at the camp.
Campers live in UK dormitories and take anatomy, biology, chemistry and medical math classes, said Carlos Marin, health careers coordinator for the University of Kentucky's Area Health Education Center.
Students also shadow health care professionals and attend informal "lunch and learn" sessions with the deans of all the university's health science colleges, Marin said.
The camp, which began June 7, will end July 17.
On Monday, the students ate lunch with Dr. Jay Perman, dean of UK's College of Medicine. Perman, who also practices pediatric gastroenterology, said that some people might see the intensive training for health care professionals as a burden, but the payoff is worth the effort.
"Most days you will come home at the end of one of those exhausting days, and you will feel good about what you did," Perman told the students. "Not many people can say that about their work."
The dean also fielded questions from the students, who wanted to know about everything from the medical college admission test to paying off med school loans.
"They are the best and the brightest," Perman said of the students. "Some of these will be the faces I see on the first day of medical school."
Bethany Bailey, 16, of Perry County said she has enjoyed the independence of living away from home.
"It's a lot like college, only a little less extreme," she said.
Bailey, who is interested in becoming a psychiatric nurse, said watching live surgeries at camp is much different than seeing them on TV.
"You can actually smell things," she said, laughing.
When being considered for the camp, the students are evaluated based on their grade-point averages, class rankings and letters of recommendation, said Julane Hamon, chief of staff for UK's College of Medicine.
If the students enjoy their summer at camp, they have the option of attending a two-week research program at UK called the Heath Researchers Youth Academy the summer after their junior year, Hamon said.
Other students may attend, but returning students from the Summer Enrichment Camp have top priority, she said.
Ten of the students at the academy this year are returning students, Marin said.
The academy teaches students about the impact that research has on the health care profession, he said.
Marin said staff try to stay in contact with the students after they leave the programs.
"Our focus is not to recruit students to UK, although we'd love to have them here," Marin said.