How can a 12-year-old learn thousands of pages of medical information from three textbooks and two websites?
It's in the cards.
Elliot Santaella, a seventh-grader at Nolan Middle School, spends most school nights drawing diagrams and scribbling bullet points to visualize information.
His secret is the flashcards he reviews, sometimes with the help of his father, Elliot Sr., who works in obstetrics at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
Elliot Santaella is preparing for the regional HOSA-Future Health Professionals competition, to be held Feb. 4 at Manatee Technical College's East Campus, located at 5520 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.
"I'm going to be taking a 50-question HOSA knowledge test with medical science and history," Santaella said. "It's a lot of information to remember."
He is among 47 students from the school and 80 within the county who will participate at the health care industry and medical knowledge competition.
This is the first year middle school students are invited to participate in a national HOSA competition, if they can qualify.
The top five students in each region go to the state competition April 14 through April 16 in Orlando. The national competition is slated for June 22 through June 24 in Nashville.
"These HOSA competitions are some of the most difficult ones for middle schoolers," Rahn said.
High school and secondary-education students will also compete at all the levels of competition, but not against the middle school students.
Rahn said the questions and grading will be more difficult for older students, but the concepts are the same. She said her students need to be creative and persistent to absorb the material.
"Middle school kids haven't had anatomy classes or those more advanced science classes like high school and older kids have," Rahn said. "They haven't had coursework to prepare them, but they're still up for the challenge. Rather than drawing from information they learned in class, they're given these text books and they have to learn and memorize what's in them. There could be just a few questions from one book, who knows."
It is a challenge welcomed by 13-year-old Phoebe Bond-Abraham. She said the positive aspect of self-teaching herself advanced medical terms and lessons is that she will be better prepared for high school courses.
Abraham, who plans to pursue a career in the medical field, is crafting a 10-minute visual presentation on preventing skin cancer.
She will present a fun but educational skit to the judges and provide them with hard facts about the disease.
Before she joined HOSA in sixth-grade, the eighth-grader would have never been comfortable speaking to an audience.
"This group offers opportunities for kids to step up," HOSA Co-Advisor Michelle Boculac said. "Some kids walk into a classroom, sit in the back and never talk. We see a complete change in their confidence and leadership skills. HOSA does that."