Interacting with the health sciences

Live 2010

By Sol Inés Peca

For the sixth straight year, McGill’s Faculty of Medicine, along with the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), and the McGill University Health Centre(MUHC), hosted the TD Discovery Day in Health Sciences. The event, organized by The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, has become a unique opportunity for high school students to explore the diversity of the health sciences.

“I remember when I taught in Africa and I showed a real brain to young school students,” recalls Dr. Albert Aguayo, the 2011 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Inductee. “I told them to touch it because that was where thoughts, sensations and emotions were. At first some were apprehensive but then they felt it and wondered and asked questions.”

Dr. Aguayo, Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, and founder and former Director of the Centre for Research in Neuroscience at McGill University, has been a dedicated advocate for the education of students in neuroscience in Canada and the developing world. He was on hand for the opening of this year’s Discovery Day.

McGill Laboratory Technician Jennifer Novek, holds up a brain for participating students at the recent Discovery Day. Photo: Nicolas Morin

Over 190 students from 26 high schools and CEGEPs across Montreal participated in the various workshops, including the popular ‘Anatomy of the Human Brain’. “I’ve always wanted to go into health sciences,” enthused Jessie Jaggers, a student from St-Thomas High School. “I enjoyed being able to see the brain – that’s always fun. But we also got to see more of why the brain is important. We don’t have that kind of in-depth analysis in high school.”

“McGill prides itself on inspiring and engaging the potential medical heroes of the future,” said Vice Principal (Health Affairs) and Dean of Medicine, Richard I. Levin. “When world-class experts give students just a glimpse of the research and health care delivery going on in our community, a life-long desire to know more is often born.”

Students at the opening of Discovery Day. Photo: Nicolas Morin

Ilke Geladi, also a student from St-Thomas High School, participated in the ‘Learning Human Anatomy for the Health Sciences’ workshop, led by McGill medical students and Dr. Eugene Daniels, Associate Professor at McGill’s Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. Geladi and fellow students looked into human hearts and lungs, seeing how circulation worked, where the blood flowed and used stethoscopes to hear each other’s heart beat.

“The most interesting part was to be able to physically see what human organs look like; you have it all inside but you don’t realize how it works,” said Geladi. “I wasn’t really sure about going into medicine, but through this, I see it’s something that all sorts of people do and is interesting and fun, and was encouraging.”

Dr. Mindy Levin, Professor at McGill’s School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, led the workshop ‘How can a Physical Therapist help?’ which allowed participating students to solve cases where a physical therapist would be a key member of the health care team. “This is a great initiative,” said Dr. Levin, “It gives kids a direct experience to interact in a meaningful way with each other and with professionals in the field.”

Tian He Wang, a secondary 5 student from College Notre-Dame, took part in Dr. Levin’s workshop. “It’s been really fun,” he said, as he maneuvered his way around a wheelchair, in the ‘wheelchair transfer’ section of the workshop.

Tian He Wang (r) watches as Dr. Mindy Levin, Professor at the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy explains 'wheelchair transfers'. Photo: Nicolas Morin

“We know that providing students with opportunities to interact with health professionals in their real-life setting helps them imagine themselves in these roles,” said Janet Tufts, Executive Director of The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

“There’s so much fun in learning,” said Dr. Aguayo, “If students want a real experience, this day helps them know that the health sciences are a very exciting and wonderful field to embrace.”

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