A former Payson High School student is getting a firsthand look at cardiology and the medical field this summer.
Matt McCarty, a junior at the University of Arizona, is part of the Col. Alexander W. Gentleman Cardiovascular Summer Student Program, a six-week course at the Arizona Heart Institute that exposes undergraduate students to the field of cardiology.
The program puts students in hospitals -- an experience they wouldn't get until their final years of medical school.
Students also get acquainted with hospital functions, explore cardiology and observe cardiovascular surgeries.
McCarty said he was surprised at his own ability to maintain an objective, scientific perspective while watching the surgeries.
"It doesn't really seem like a person when they're all covered up," McCarty said. "But you still have to realize that it is (a person)."
McCarty said cardiology has been a longtime interest.
"Just coming here has kind of made me like it more, (and) get a better feel for what (working in medicine) is like," McCarty said.
Working with cardiologists has increased McCarty's passion for medicine and cardiology. He said the experience has given him a better feel for his future in medicine.
"I think I've just really got a better understanding of how everything works in medicine, like the connection between the nurses and doctors," McCarty said.
McCarty spends roughly 10 hours a day at the hospital, observing surgeries and interacting with doctors and other hospital staff.
"I know a lot of people have this idea that doctors are put on a pedestal, but when it comes down to it they're just people and they enjoy working with people in the hospital."
A big part of the experience is taking it upon yourself to engage with the doctors and learn as much as you can while you're there, McCarty said.
"I think (the program) has challenged me to really understand (parts of medicine) that I'm not really familiar with," McCarty said. "You really have to be plugged in."
McCarty hopes to pursue a career in medicine. But he's not sure whether that path will lead him back to Payson.
"It just depends on where the demand is at the time," McCarty said.