CINCINNATI -- Ryle High School junior Sophia Forlenza's passion for a career in medicine is personal. In fourth grade, her father experienced a "widowmaker," an often-deadly type of heart attack in which one of his coronary arteries closed completely.
He survived, but the incident still changed Forlenza's life.
"That was my wake-up call," she said. "I knew I wanted to be in medicine."
She and 19 other passionate students like her are getting first-hand experience this summer in the field they hope to join through St. Elizabeth's Medical Observation Opportunity Network. The program allows young people with an interest in health care to accompany doctors, nurses and other health care workers on their rounds, sit in on sessions in doctors' offices and watch surgeries in an operating theater.
"I've seen the brain!" Forlenza said, laughing. "I was really fascinated by that. … I was so astonished by (the doctors') compassion and drive for their patient. That was really just amazing."
MOON existed in the mind of its surgeon founder, Dr. Ryan Moon, for more than a decade before it became a reality in 2017. He wants it to provide an opportunity for students like his high school self -- those with average grades but enormous passion and interest in helping others -- to get to know the everyday experience of working in the medical field.
"If you can just give one kid that passion pill, then they're set," he said. "I really believe in my heart that it doesn't matter what you do in life, but if you're passionate about it, you're going to be better at it, and if you're better at it, you'll be a better husband, wife, mother, father, brother, friend. That's why this is so important to me."
It's also why it pains him that the program can only offer 20 spots, he said. He hopes to expand it each year it exists and help more students explore medical careers that excite them.
MOON will also check up on its alumni in the years after the program to track how many wind up working in health care.
Forlenza already has a hard target in her mind, she said. She hopes to become an osteopath for the United States Air Force and show her future patients the same compassion she witnessed from doctors in MOON.
"Maybe I can help a girl my age, you know, bring her father back to life," she said.