Junior Audrey Heathcote attends Washington University medical program


Layne Bierk

Junior Audrey Heathcote dissects a minx in Human Anatomy and Physiology. The class focuses on the workings of the human body and helps students to learn medical terminology. “The smell was so bad,” Heathcote said. “They smelt worse than cadavers; I almost threw up.”

Junior Audrey Heathcote participates in Saturday Scholars, a program hosted by Washington University (Wash U) in St. Louis in which selected high school students learn about the medical field through lectures and hands-on experiences in the cadaver lab every Saturday for five weeks.

Heathcote first learned of Saturday Scholars at the Health Professions Fair in January where there were multiple booths set up with various medical field workers. Science teacher Charlie Cutelli took eight of his Human Anatomy and Physiology students, including Heathcote.

“Audrey is inquisitive. She is not afraid to get her hands dirty, ask questions and learn for the sake of learning and not points,” Cutelli said. “These [qualities] will go far in her schooling and prep for the world of medicine.”

Heathcote is the only student from West who applied to be a part of Saturday Scholars. The application process required a short essay on a booth at the fair, and there were about 50 students selected from the area.

“What really got me to apply was the cadaver lab,” Heathcote said. “[I was really looking forward to] holding all of the organs because you see pictures in textbooks, but it is so much different to actually hold a heart and see the aorta and feel it. It made me understand it more.”

During the Saturday sessions, participants listened to a lecture from Wash U medical students. Each week covered a different body system: cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, renal and reproductive.

“I had read about the [cardiovascular system] before so [that lecture] wasn’t so difficult for me,” Heathcote said. “But, oh my gosh, the kidneys. They’re so complicated. It’s kind of amazing.”

Audrey is inquisitive. She is not afraid to get her hands dirty, ask questions and learn for the sake of learning and not points. These [qualities] will go far in her schooling and prep for the world of medicine.

— Science teacher Charlie Cutelli

Following the lecture, the students were allowed to visit Wash U’s cadaver lab where they observed different bodies and held organs that exhibited defects and causes of death relating to the lecture that day.

“Learning about it [in a textbook] is one thing, but seeing and feeling it is something completely different,” Heathcote said. “They [textbook authors] usually have [organs] in a nice, color-coded model, but it’s not like that in real life.”

Heathcote feels that Saturday Scholars was a unique opportunity that gave her a preview of the next chapter of her life.

“[One thing I learned was] how hard medical school is going to be,” Heathcote said. “The lectures weren’t watered down. [The lectures in college are] in-depth, and it’s really overwhelming.”

Despite the challenging lectures, Heathcote’s experience in the cadaver lab solidified her belief that she wants to be a surgeon in her adult life.

“I expected [going to the cadaver lab] would hit me more, but I didn’t get sad or freaked out,” Heathcote said.

Heathcote is grateful to have had the chance to get some experience in what she hopes will be her career.

“It is so much easier to realize that something that you thought was right for you isn’t right for you in high school than it is once you’ve paid thousands of dollars [for college],” Heathcote said. “I’m excited now because I know I’ll be able to [be a surgeon].”