GARY — Joey Bobo changed out of his suit and tie, and into a pair of blue doctor scrubs. He rounded a hallway corner in the Dunes Medical/Professional Building at Indiana University Northwest.
"Hey, doc!" his mother said.
It was the first time Claudette Maxwell had seen her son in scrubs.
Bobo is not a doctor. He's not even old enough to vote. The Schererville resident just turned 17 and will start his junior year at Lake Central High School in the fall.
He is the youngest participant in this summer's International Human Cadaver Prosection Program at the School of Medicine at Indiana University Northwest in Gary.
The annual prosection program allows nonphysician and nonmedical student volunteers to prepare anatomical donors for medical students, who will further study the cadavers in a gross anatomy class in the fall.
Two years ago, the age requirement was scrapped, and applicants are handled case by case, said program director Ernest Talarico Jr.
Bobo heard Talarico give a presentation about the prosection program and asked him about it. Talarico encouraged him to apply. His interest and maturity, coupled with the strong support of his parents, led Talarico to accept him into the program.
At 7, Bobo knew he wanted to be a doctor. His great-grandmother had congestive heart failure. Each visit, she grew sicker.
"It was sad to watch her fade away," he said.
The experience made him want to heal.
"I wanted to be that one person that brings hope to families," he said. "Ever since then, it's been my passion. It's a strong feeling inside me."
Christopher Sheid, director of marketing and communications for IUN, said age is not as much of an issue as maturity and how a person carries himself.
Bobo father, Shahid Maxwell, said they had a talk about priorities. The teen loves football, but unless football was going to lead him to the NFL, Bobo needed to focus on academics.
His parents let him decide. He put down the football and picked up the scalpel.
Bobo saw a cadaver this summer in Chicago during a 10-day program called the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine. But Wednesday was the first time he sank a scalpel into the flesh.
"It was magical," he said. "It felt like I've done it so many times before."
His mother watched as Bobo worked on the body of a man.
"He seems like a natural," she said. "He's doing that like it's a piece of cake."
Maxwell had a few concerns about whether her son could mentally handle involvement in the prosection program. But after some discussions, she decided he could.
His fascination with bones has led him toward a goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
Maxwell, who once majored in pre-med, said her uncle was a double biology major with plans to become a doctor, but he was killed at age 25. The passion for medicine, she said, runs in the family.
"It's in our blood," she said.
Bobo's little sister, Gloria, is 14. She wants to be a pediatrician.