IUSM-Bloomington students share knowledge of medicine with children at annual WonderLab workshop
Jan. 10, 2013
Students from the IU School of Medicine-Bloomington campus took time out of their busy mid-term schedules recently to teach children about medicine. The workshop was held at a much-loved Bloomington location devoted to getting kids excited about science.
About 12 to 15 medical students participate in this annual event at WonderLab, an interactive nonprofit children's science museum that attracts hundreds of potential future doctors to its medical lab event each year.
“We really want to help interest kids in the medical sciences and biology,” said Mark Braun, M.D., professor of medical pathology and director of the Medical Pathology Medical Sciences Program, who also serves as an advisor on medical service learning events in Bloomington. “This event’s a great chance for children to experience medicine, as well as an opportunity to meet and interact with medical students.”
WonderLab’s Medical Lab includes a number of hands-on activities designed to engage students in the medical sciences and spark a passion to learn more about the human body. Workshops include working with a high-tech simulated patient whose internal apparatus can simulate wheezes, coughs, heart murmurs and an irregular heartbeat; exploring a pig’s heart; and practicing sutures on a banana.
The simulated patient, or “SimMan,” also enabled children to feel the pulse and witness electrical changes in the heart. The pig hearts were partially dissected in order to show a heart's anatomy, such as the valves and chambers.
“Being at the heart station, I can tell you it took a lot to get most of the kids to touch it, but almost without fail, as soon as they held it, they lit up -- it basically took a crowbar to pry it away,” said Logan McNeive, a second-year medical student. “I'm convinced that something that simple paved a way for an interest in science among at least a few of the kids.”
Kat Gilbert, a second-year medical student who ran the simulated patient station, agrees.
“I think it is important to show kids that all subjects are interesting,” she said. “The more excited we can get kids about learning, the more they will grow into skilled adults. Their faces would light up when they could hear the sound of the heart or breathing.”
In addition to encouraging an interest in science, Andrew Drahos, a second-year medical student who helped organized each station, pointed out that the event aimed to raise children’s awareness about their personal health through additional activities such as a diabetes education station. There, children played a "Jeopardy!"-style game to guess how much exercise they would have to do in order to burn off unhealthy food choices. Each child also received a small wristwatch to help promote physical activity.
"Kids need to learn at a young age about what we are putting into our bodies, and how to make smarter decisions,” Drahos said. "The more excited you can get people about their health, the more likely they are to be invested in it.”
Although the IU School of Medicine does not have an official service learning requirement, Dr. Braun notes that almost everyone getting a medical education at the IU School of Medicine-Bloomington is eager to get involved in the community.
“We’ve done service learning projects here for many years. We don’t need to cajole anyone; we’ve always got a whole bevy of students eager to get involved,” he said. “They essentially run the whole thing.”
WonderLab, which puts out an annual request for groups to contribute to the medical education event, has counted the IU School of Medicine among its most loyal participants for at least the past three years. The IU School of Optometry is also among the regular participants.
About 65 first- and second-year medical students are pursuing their medical degree at IUSM-Bloomington, as well as several third-year students, as of 2012.
In addition to Drahos, McNeive and Gilbert, IUSM-Bloomington students participating in this year’s event included second-year medical students Jeremy Mescher and Ethan Valinetz, and third-year medical student Mark Oliver. Douglas Carr, M.D., lecturer in surgery, also participated.