Dr. Bobby Anderson knew he was granted a rare opportunity.

For three years the Merced College Dean of Allied Health, Business and Public Safety has been in the thick of putting on the annual Growing Health Leaders High School Health Care Career Conference. But a rare mid-semester break in classes for Columbus Day paved the way for Merced College to play host for the first time.

Anderson was determined to make the most of it.

Three hundred students from eight different area high schools flooded the Allied Health buildings and surrounding areas to learn about Merced College’s top-notch Registered Nursing, Certified Nursing Assistant, Licensed Vocational Nurse, Radiology Technician and Diagnostic Medical Sonography programs.

Students learned about medical professions from RNs, to respiratory therapists, to dieticians and X-ray techs and then got some hands-on experience as they were taught to search for veins, take a pulse and listen to heartbeats.

“We had never hosted 300 students before, so we had some concerns,” Anderson said. “The whole thing really went off without a hitch. We partnered up with the Central Valley Health Network and the whole day kind of kept waiting for something to go wrong. It never did.

“The kids had a great time. All the technology worked when it was supposed to. Everybody from facilities to maintenance to technology to my teachers just did an amazing job.”

The highlight of the day for most of the students seemed to be the opportunity to work with the nursing program’s $150,000 SimMans. The robotic mannequins can simulate hundreds of medical conditions, make life-like sounds, teach students how to listen to a heart and lungs and even has pupils that dilate.   

The Allied Health teachers on hand said the students’ enthusiasm more than made up for giving up their day off to host the event.

“The teachers felt good about it,” Anderson said. “Any time you’re doing something where you’re educating people and you feel that they got it, then you feel good about yourself, because it’s a sense of giving back.

“We had all these kids from Merced and the surrounding county on our campus and this was our chance to put up or don’t, and my guys put up. The thing I really liked was when it was time to rotate them to the next activity and they didn’t want to leave. That’s how you can tell the learning process is taking place."