UF outreach program brings hands-on medical experience to area students
Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 3:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 3:58 p.m.
Dressed in a blue surgeon's cap and a white lab coat that reached her ankles, 7-year-old Paris Owens prepared to perform her first medical procedure.
With help from a member of the University of Florida's anesthesiology department, she held a bag valve mask to a mannequin's mouth and pumped. It was Paris's first step on the path to becoming a doctor.
About 125 children in kindergarten through 12th grade participated in Wednesday's Medical Professional Career Outreach Program, hosted by the UF College of Medicine's Office of Diversity and Health Equity.
The event, which introduced students to a range of medical fields, was the culmination of the five-week Fostering Opportunities and Cultivating Upstanding Students summer program, called FOCUS, at Showers of Blessing Harvest Center in east Gainesville.
On Wednesday, students cycled through six stations, getting hands-on demonstrations of medical procedures, introductions to different aspects of medicine and hearing about the road to medical school from UF medical students.
"It's important to reach students at this age and introduce them to some options they might not have known about," said Dr. Albert Robinson, assistant dean of the Office of Diversity and Health Equity and an associate professor of anesthesiology.
Robinson said he has organized events similar to the Medical Professional Career Outreach program for the past five years.
This year, FOCUS Director Natalie King asked him to bring the career fair-styled event to her students.
FOCUS, based at Showers of Blessing Harvest Center, immerses students in science, math, technology and the arts during the summer months.
"A lot of our kids are not prepared for school in the fall, so we wanted to keep them engaged," King said.
For Kalona Smith, 10, Wednesday's event gave more insight into what she wants to be when she grows up — an endocrinologist.
As a child who has had to learn how to manage her diabetes, Kalona said she wants to someday help other children the same way.
"I want to show them how to control it and how to be responsible," she said. "And to have a good life."
Older students get more of an academic focus in the program.
High schoolers take SAT classes during FOCUS, and on Wednesday they heard from UF undergraduates and medical students about what it takes to get into medical school.
"For us, it's more so what to do to get into college," said Terrence Williams Jr., a 15-year-old junior at Eastside High School.
Eastside senior Ana Nichols-Holcy, 17, is starting to apply to colleges and was able to get some feedback about her projected field: clinical social work.
Paris Owens, who will start fifth grade at Duval Elementary in a few weeks, was just happy to play doctor for the day. As she held the bag valve mask, UF anesthesiology simulation lab engineer Drew Gonsalves guided her through a simulated tracheal intubation.
It didn't quite work. When Paris squeezed the pump, the mannequin's stomach inflated instead of its lungs.
Gonsalves asked her, "Is that good or bad?"
"Good," Paris answered.
She still has a few years until medical school.