Science Expo introduces high school, college students to health professions

A student from New Braunfels High School learns a balance exercise that might be “prescribed” to a person in physical therapy as he stands on one leg while tossing a basketball to small trampoline.

More than 1,100 high school and college students from throughout Texas attended the 2017 Health Professions Fair and Science Expo Nov. 11 at UT Health San Antonio.

The hands-on event is designed to introduce students to the wide array of health-related and biomedical professions available to them.

“Science Expo is a wonderful opportunity for high school and college students to explore and/or confirm their potential future career paths into the biomedical science professions. Our goal is to motivate and educate these young students and to encourage them to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers,” said Irene Chapa, Ph.D., director of the Office of Recruitment & Science Outreach at UT Health.

Among the students were Mary Lind from New Braunfels High School, Seaira Caldwell from Roosevelt High and Kiran Sankar from UT San Antonio.

A sophomore, Lind has been interested in physical therapy for years and was exploring hands-on activities associated with it, including standing on one foot while throwing a basketball against a small trampoline. The activity could help patients improve their arm strength and balance. Her mother, Elizabeth Lind, came along as a chaperone. “This is great for the kids to see first-hand all of these different professions and to learn from the teachers what all of these different fields are like,” Elizabeth Lind said. “Mary is also very interested in helping disabled children, so we are going to take a look at the occupational therapy activities, too.”

Nearby, Caldwell, listened to heart sounds on a simulation manikin provided by the School of Nursing. She already has a career plan. “I want to go to medical school to become a general doctor,” she said.

Meanwhile, a large group of UTSA students were going through the H-E-B Clinic Skills Center, where they observed a number of simulation manikins. In one room, a male simulation manikin is laid on an operating table. “We use this room to train anesthesiology residents,” explained Diane Ferguson, the Clinical Skills Center director. “How many mistakes do you think happen in the operating room at a hospital?” she asked. “Not too many,” a student responded.  “That’s right, because here we help them go through all sorts of scenarios where things go badly so that they will know how to respond,” she explained.

Sankar, one of the UTSA students, said, “This is my third time to come to Science Expo. If I’d been able to do this when I was 16, it would have helped me figure out what I wanted to do a lot sooner. Now I know that I want to go to medical school, but I haven’t narrowed it down to a specialty yet.”

At other stations, students learned how to suture a wound on a simulated arm, drove a wheelchair through an obstacle course, dissected a sheep eye, held a human brain and mixed dental material to make an impression of their thumb.

“This is really fun!” said Sherisa Orozco, a Providence High School sophomore.

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