San Diego community college students are getting a unique learning experience: Giving medical care to prisoners.
Mesa College is the first community college in the county to partner with a prison to provide students with hands-on training.
These students are learning everything from giving vaccinations to doing X-rays for patients at Donovan State Prison.
Mesa College students are taking what they've learned in labs and using it to care for patients from all different medical backgrounds and ages at the prison.
The prison takes 32 students from Mesa's Dental, Medical and Information Technology programs. They go through four weeks of lab training and an orientation at the prison to prepare.
Then they start working with prison patients who have a variety of issues, including mental illness and disabilities.
The health care is free to the prison. However, inmates who can afford it do pay a co-pay. In turn, college students get 300 hours of training they need to become registered medical assistants.
Professors say the program prepares them for working in challenging medical situations that you couldn't get from a regular internship.
Mesa College dental assistant student Stefanie Delletorri agrees.
"It just gives you a realistic experience in a dental setting. It's always great practicing on models, but when you actually get to practice in a real-life it's completely different and you need that,” Delletorri said.
The prison plans to expand the partnership to include San Diego City College's nursing program this fall.