Rising seniors typically don’t spend their last summer as high school students in a doctor’s office, but Cary Orthopaedics was happy to host three outstanding students from Athens Drive Magnet High School for an engaging, five-week internship. Alisha Burkhardt and Julian Viljoen studied under orthopaedic surgeons Dr. Ted Armour and Dr. Mark Curzan and physician assistant Kevin Morrison. Muhammad Khan studied under physical therapist Christopher Dahm.

“We enjoy the opportunity to give students a little insight into patient care and management of musculoskeletal problems,” said Dr. Armour. “It’s the first year we have taken high school interns into the operating room, and it’s rewarding to make their experience interactive. I still remember the look of amazement on Alisha’s face as I removed a pint of fluid from a patient’s knee.”

Orthopaedic high school internship

Alisha Burkhardt and Dr. Ted Armour

Julian and Alisha had an opportunity to experience how each job – from receptionists to radiologic technologists to surgeons – is crucial in running a successful patient-oriented medical practice. The two shadowed physicians and PAs during patient appointments, learning about common sports injuries, muscle function and anatomy, as well as coming to understand the importance of active listening. They also learned how to properly mold and apply casts and splints, bring patients back into exam rooms, enter patients’ medical histories into electronic medical records and identify certain injuries through physical tests.

“My favorite experience as an intern was watching Dr. Armour perform surgery,” said Alisha, who wants to study medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill. “I had the opportunity to observe a few different surgeries, but I enjoyed the ACL repair the most. It was interesting to watch the process of preparing the patient for surgery, the surgery itself and then post operation.”

“I enjoyed when the interns would come back with something they researched on their own after being introduced to it in the clinic,” said Kevin who was impressed by their initiative.

Muhammad, who plans to attend physical therapy school at either East Carolina University or UNC Charlotte, was able to observe Cary Orthopaedics’ physical therapists.

Muhammad Khan

Muhammad Khan

Christopher said, “We educated Muhammad on the entire process from a patient’s initial evaluation and treatment to physical therapy and discharge.” He also gained knowledge about the different muscle groups along with their functions, helping him better understand the patient’s diagnosis. Overall, his communication skills improved, and he assisted with different modalities such as applying cold packs and moist hot packs.

“The culture of this place is incredible,” said Muhammad. “The physical therapists are very helpful and take the time to work with you.”

Dr. Curzan was impressed by the students’ enthusiasm as they listened and asked relevant questions about the patients and their diagnoses. “I can think back, with fond memories, when I was a high school student doing the very same shadowing as I started my journey in medicine,” Dr. Curzan said. “Any chance to ‘get your feet wet’ and take part in a career field that interests you is a tremendous advantage as you navigate the various options that exist in medicine.”

Julian, whose ultimate goal is to study medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill and become a surgeon specializing in either orthopaedics or cardiology, said this about his internship: “It was all I could have imagined and more.”

Cary Orthopaedics looks forward to working with a physician assistant student in January 2019, and our practice welcomes the opportunity for more high school interns to serve as apprentices in summer 2019. We hope to make this experience increasingly interactive in future years, so students can gain the most out of the time spent with everyone at the practice. If you’d like to shadow a physician, physician assistant or physical therapist, please contact our office to submit a request.

Orthopaedic high school internship

Julian Viljoen and the Cary Orthopaedics team