MONTCLAIR, NJ – Over 50 eager teens gathered at HackensackUMC Mountainside on Tuesday for a presentation on healthcare career options. They were also allowed to use the hospital's surgical robot da Vinci during a simulation task.

Physicians and administrators from varied medical disciplines shared their career paths with the youths.

During a panel discussion, the panelists highlighted their respective positions at the hospital and shared how their educational backgrounds prepared them for their vocations. The importance of science, technology, engineering and math was stressed as key contributors to the success of the panelists’ careers.

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The middle and high school students in attendance were encouraged to set high academic goals for themselves and to begin the journey now in preparation for a profession in their chosen field.

Two teachers from Montclair-based private school Lacordaire Academy brought six students on an evening field trip to expose them to healthcare careers and robotics. Kelly Ang and Victoria Roche, brought their math and science middle school students along for learning outside of the classroom.

Roche, who teaches math, said, "We wanted to introduce our middle school students to robotics and (STEM) Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields.” She added that the excursion ties into the new program being introduced at the school. “We will be starting a robotics program in the fall so we wanted to get our students used to working with robots and being comfortable around them.”

After the panel discussion, there was a demonstration of da Vinci, a surgical robot. Each student took turns doing a simulation exercise with da Vinci to learn how doctors use the tool during a surgical procedure.

Some parents accompanied their children and expressed that they found the experience valuable. Among the medical professionals on the panel, there were a wide range of medical vocations including two doctors, a physical therapist, a speech therapist, a pharmacists, a nurse, a hospital administrator and a radiology technician.

Jeffrey Knapp, of Caldwell, brought his three sons to expose them at to medical careers. at an early age. He said, "My three boys are interested in possibly pursuing a career in medicine and I wanted them to hear the perspective of the people that are actually working in the field. This was a perfect way for them to do that.”

Knapp noted that the information given to the youths was valuable since some of the medical professionals stayed to answer questions and chat with the teens after the program, as well.

Knapp continued, “I got to directly hear from the doctors and nurses that work in the field because I'm helping to guide my sons in their decision. What they got out of it was to hear another adult's perspective other than their parents. When they get to hear from someone else, I think it means more to them. It was very valuable event from my perspective.”

Knapp says that he looks forward to being invited back for more demonstrations.