Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community

Teen students get a sneak preview of medical school

Summer 2008

Play eases the anxiety of Bernard Dannenberg's young patient.

High school students perform surgery on mannequins at the Goodman Simulation Center during Med School 101, a special event designed to spur interest in medical careers.

It can be challenging to get into medical school, but it was no problem for a group of local students earlier this year. More than 150 teenagers, including many from East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Redwood City, flocked to Stanford’s campus to play medical student for the day.

They came for Med School 101, an all-day experience designed to expose students to the world of medical research and to get them thinking about possible careers in medicine and science. Participants had the opportunity to perform virtual CPR, touch animal hearts and view embryonic stem cells that had given rise to heart cells beating in a lab dish.

A particularly popular course was led by Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, an associate professor of anesthesia, who introduced the students to “real-time brain control” that showed how chronic pain sufferers are able to reduce pain levels by using mental strategies and by studying their own brain images.

“It’s really cool, those images he showed and his ideas about controlling pain,” said Scott Kidd, a sophomore at Summit Preparatory High School in Redwood City, who says he has definite plans for medical school.

Other students flocked to a session on surgery at the Goodman Simulation Center, where they were allowed to “perform” a laparoscopic procedure on one of the simulators there. “It’s like a video game,” said Jessica Reyes of Sequoia High School in Redwood City, as she maneuvered her laparoscope like a joystick.

The students also got acquainted with “Mr. Jones,” one of the mannequins that surgical interns practice on at Stanford before heading into the operating room. Awed whispers could be heard as the mannequin responded, in a very real fashion, to various manipulations.

Students weren’t the only ones to get something out of the experience. “It is a joy to see the excitement on the students’ faces when you explain a difficult topic and they really get it,” said Mackey, who also presented at last year’s event. “I remember what high school was like, and I know that a single event can make a big difference in the direction you choose for your life.”

Sherry Wren, MD, a professor of surgery who gave a talk on her volunteer work in Africa, felt the same way. Though she had never lectured to high schoolers before, she said she took time out of her busy schedule to inspire a few students. “Wouldn’t it be great if someone in the audience thought, ‘I want to do what that woman does,’ and became a Stanford surgeon?” she said.

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