On an ordinary summer day, high school student Kevin Bombinski would be typically playing video games or hanging out with friends, but this June, Bombinski and his teenage peers spent a day diagnosing and reviving a 53-year-old hospital “patient” named Sam.
As part of a Science Discovery class called Med School Experience, the Peak to Peak junior and his classmates were asked to treat computer-driven human patient simulators, like Sam. The life-like simulators can speak, blink, and breathe, and— as the young students quickly learned— their health can deteriorate rapidly requiring hurried diagnosis and well coordinated resuscitation. Stethoscopes in hand, two teams of aspiring doctors and nurses diagnosed cardiac arrest or respiratory failure for the patient simulators and performed treatments such as CPR, intubation, and oxygen therapy.
The Med School Experience is a new weeklong class offered through collaboration between the CU-Boulder Science Discovery program and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The class taught 17 Front Range high school students about the cardiopulmonary system, health care technology, and health science careers.
In addition to working with patient simulators, the students participated in mini-lectures, case studies, hands-on activities, and interactive tours of medical facilities on the Anschutz Campus. Other activities included fitness and nutrition demonstrations, a visit to the human anatomy lab, inspection of heart and lung specimens, an introduction to medical research, and use of the Virtual Human Dissector, a computer program that allows students to view photorealistic, 3-D images of organs and biological systems. (View images of the Virtual Human Dissector on facebook...)
“It’s been amazing,” said Jane Stewart, first-year medical student and co-instructor for Med School Experience. “The students had a one hour lecture on the first day and from then on, they were asking really difficult questions. That’s the stuff that really excites me. They were asking about what would the patient be feeling or doing. They get the human component, and that’s really encouraging.”
Stewart and fellow CU medical student Nicole Stutzman led and coordinated the class as part of the School of Medicine’s Mentored Scholarly Activity program. Anschutz faculty and staff provided assistance and instruction, and the schedule included meetings with CU graduate students in other health fields, such as dentistry and pharmacy.
Med School Experience is part of Science Discovery’s larger efforts to offer more classes specifically for high school students. Science Discovery is a CU-Boulder science education outreach program, and its mission is to heighten interest and increase literacy in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for K-12 students and teachers. Science Discovery organizers noticed a gap in programming for older students and added several new summer courses for high schoolers such as the Mountain Research Experience, Lunar Rover, and Biotechnology.
“Historically, Science Discovery offered numerous classes for younger students, but there were limited opportunities for high school students,” said Stacey Forsyth, director of Science Discovery. “These classes help keep high school students engaged throughout the summer, and give them a chance to explore different STEM careers at a time when they might be thinking about college.”
Bombinski went home satisfied.
“My mom signed me up because I like science and I like helping people. This reinforced that I guess,” Bombinski said. “I really liked the Virtual Human Dissector, and I really liked the hands-on stuff. It’s much more interesting than my normal summer life.”