DANVILLE — Twenty Boyle County High School students watched Wednesday as Dr. Scott Roth, a surgeon at the University of Kentucky, made an incision in the abdomen of a middle-aged man who had a groin hernia in need of repair.
There were a few "eews" as a camera inserted inside the man's body began showing the brick red of his muscles, the bright red of small blood vessels and the yellow of fat deposits. But mostly, the students, all part of a medical science class, watched in an enthralled silence as Roth talked about what he was doing.
The idea behind live surgery, which more than 200 high school students across the state watched Wednesday morning, is to get the students excited about health-related careers, said Rob Sprang, director of Kentucky TeleCare.
The program broadcast the surgery from UK Chandler Hospital to high schools and community colleges around the state. Students watched and listened via videoconferencing and were able to ask questions of Roth.
Sprang hopes the surgery will inspire students who think chemistry, biology and math are dull and boring.
"What we're hoping to show them is that this is what it all leads to," Sprang said. "You can be a surgeon, you can be a nurse, you can be in the health profession."
Watching the surgery was amazing, said Wendy Cooper, a senior.
"You see this and you really get to know what you want to do, what's involved in this thing," Cooper said.
Cooper wants to be a doctor and specialize in infectious diseases. She was excited after seeing the surgery.
"I want to do this even more," she said.
The surgery was minimally invasive, meaning Roth operated through three small incisions.
As he worked, he explained the benefits of minimally invasive surgery, how hernias happen and why doctors advise patients to get them repaired.
The patient, who was not identified to the students, was in minimal pain after the surgery and went home several hours later, Roth said.
Roth answered questions from the students about the amount of blood lost (very little) and what happened to the mesh he inserted into the body to repair the hernia (it stays there).
Ashtin May, a junior, liked seeing the different parts of the body from a surgical perspective. They looked different from the ones in her textbooks.
"On the pictures you see in the book, there are boundaries and outlines," May said. "Here you can't see the boundaries."
Many of the students in the class plan to go into a health profession. As part of another class, six of the students have become certified nursing assistants and several have worked in nursing homes. One senior, Chris Broyles, now has a job at UK drawing blood from patients. He wants to be a doctor, but, in the meantime, the $14-plus an hour he earns is good pay.
Watching the surgery was awesome and better than a normal class, Broyles said.
"I would not mind being a surgeon one bit," he said.
Not all the students liked watching the surgery. "Sickening" was how Pam Boyd described it.
"Stuff like that just makes me sick," said Boyd, a junior who wants to be a veterinarian.
Savannah Young agreed that watching the surgery was "kind of gross." But she also was amazed by what's inside a body and what surgeons can do.
She doesn't plan on going into surgery, either. Instead, Young wants to be a nurse, caring for patients who aren't being operated on.
"I could never be responsible for doing a surgery," she said.