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Part-Time Medical School

It can take ten years of studying and training to become a doctor. Now, people with a strong interest in medical science -- but not that strong an interest -- can attend a "mini medical school." CBS News This Morning Health Contributor Dr. Dave Hnida of CBS station KCNC-TV in Denver reports about one such program.

Washington University in St. Louis has a medical school, but the students who attend it are not medical students. They are everyday people who have chosen to spend each Tuesday learning about everything from diabetes to genetics in a program that is called a "mini medical school."

Danette Todt, 17, loves the classes. She hopes to become a doctor someday and sees the program at Washington University as the perfect chance to test the waters. "This is a once in a lifetime thing," says Danette. "You will never again find a class like this, with this much information and this much hands-on."

She doesn't even mind the long drive she and her mother make each Tuesday to attend the classes. "It's a two and a half hour trip up to St. Louis, to Washington University and after it's over at nine o'clock, we drive back home," she says.

Not all the students in the class dream of being a doctor. Terry Bopp, who is taking the class with his son, is happily employed as a police officer. "I didn't think I would actually be going into a career change at this point," he says, "but the programs are helping me out as far as being able to do my job and help the paramedics do their job."

Danette and Terry are just two in a large and diverse class of students who range in age from 13 to 87.

Dr. Cynthia Wichelman based Washington University's program on others among the more than a dozen mini medical schools across the U.S.

"Response from the community to the program has been excellent," says Dr. Wichelman. "There has been a tremendous enthusiasm and right now, there are over 500 on the waiting list" for enrollment.

Why would thousands of people choose to spend their free time learning about medicine? The "perks" include gowning up in surgical gear and learning to suture wounds.

It may not be everyone's idea of fun, but Dr. Wickelman wants the students to at least find the information useful. "I want them to become more familiar with the medical jargon, that is the terms that we use in medicine, so that they may use that to effectively communicate with their physicians," she says.

Terry Bopp says it works. A lecture on diabetes helped him better understand and care for his brother-in-law who has Down's syndrome and diabetes.

As for Danette, she says the class has made her even more sure of her future career choice.

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