Science Expo’s hands-on activities draw 1,500 high school, college students

Nursing students offer visiting high school students the opportunity to listen to sounds within the body using a simulation manikin.
Nursing students offer visiting high school students the opportunity to listen to sounds within the body using a simulation manikin.

Waking up at 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning for a school field trip is not what you’d expect the average high school student to do. But Hannah Brady from Harlingen School of Health Professions, a high school program in Harlingen, was on the bus at 3 a.m. for the four-hour ride to San Antonio Nov. 12.

She and more than 1,500 high school and college students from San Antonio and throughout Texas attended the Health Professions Fair & Science Expo Nov. 12 at the UT Health San Antonio.

The students dissected sheep hearts, held human brains, intubated manikins, started an intravenous (IV) line on a manikin and much more.

“Science Expo is a wonderful opportunity for high school and college students to explore and/or confirm potential future career paths in the biomedical science professions,” explained Irene Chapa, Ph.D., director of the Office of Recruitment & Science Research at UT Health.

“Our goal is to motivate and educate these young students and to encourage them to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers,” she said. “Equally important, however, is to help empower and equip the students with tools they can utilize to become competitive applicants to professional programs ― and to succeed once they are accepted.”

Scores of medical, dental, nursing, basic science and health professions faculty members and students helped with the event.

Walking through a room where Health Science Center students were demonstrating skills involved in various health care careers, Steele High School junior Allison Chandler said she was seriously considering emergency room nursing. “I’ve always wanted to help people, and I’ve been thinking about emergency nursing for some time,” she said.

Among the things she had seen were physical therapy students guiding visitors through an orange-cone-marked course while seated in a wheel chair; occupational therapy students demonstrating accommodative devices patients would use to prepare and eat food; and nursing students giving visitors the chance to listen to internal body sounds on a simulation manikin.

Meanwhile, Bandera High School student Trevor Karnes was wearing a vest hooked up to a machine that vigorously shook his chest. With him was UT Health respiratory care student Kiandra Gildon. “Imagine what it would be like to have to do this for 20 minutes every day when you wake up. That’s what a person with cystic fibrosis might have to do,” she said. The vest helps the patient clear the airway of lung secretions.

Having already earned her biology degree, Gildon is working on her master’s degree in respiratory care. “This is a growing field and is very dynamic. It’s something that I want to be a part of,” she said.

Harlingen School of Health Professions student Brady was busy learning how to suture a cut on a simulation manikin leg. “I’m thinking about radiology and just medicine in general, ” she said. “I’m interested in radiology because I could have a stable career and family life, but it’s also interesting to think about emergency medicine where you would see crazy things every day!”

Second-year medical student Amanda McDonald helped the high school students with suturing. “I would have loved to have had something like this when I was in high school! I love the teaching aspect of helping out here today because I think I may want to have teaching as part of my career. It’s really great seeing how all the kids here are so excited about this.”

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