Students Get A Hands-on Look at Medicine

Thirteen Rivers freshmen and sophomores had a unique opportunity during spring break to experience the world of medicine up-close and personal. They attended a three-day STEM mini-course offered by Harvard Medical School’s MEDscience program. During the program, they were presented with a series of “patients” whose symptoms they had to diagnose and treat as a medical “team.” They practiced their skills on STAN, the same simulator used by Harvard medical professionals and students as well as Rivers’ Anatomy and Physiology students during their own MEDscience program each spring.
The MEDscience mini-courses are intended to “expose students to STEM fields through the lens of medicine; immerse students in realistic, dynamic team-based problem solving exercises; motivate students to think critically, be reflective, and apply classroom knowledge; and inspire a persistent interest in pursuing STEM and healthcare professions.”

Because of the design of the program, students are encouraged to think creatively about the problems they are presented with, and to work as a team to come up with a solution or treatment for the problem. They are able to use real equipment in real-life situations, giving them a hands-on experience that cannot be matched in the classroom.

“The MEDscience crew was incredibly impressed by our students,” commented Rivers science teacher Maureen Courtney. “We got through much more material than they were anticipating on Day 1, which included taking vital signs and studying the respiratory system. From there, the program really exceeded my expectations.”
“On Day 2, we visited a lecture hall at HMS and discussed how to be a successful student in college—where to sit in large lecture halls, when to attend office hours, how to ask for help. It was all fantastic advice! It was also an opportunity to explain different potential paths in health sciences—doctor, research, nursing, physician’s assistant, EMT, paramedic, etc.”
Then the students split into two small groups. One half of them learned how to intubate while the other half met their next “patient." The intubation session allowed students to learn about the respiratory and digestive systems in greater detail and there were plenty of opportunities to make mistakes and problem solve what happened. The “patient” was having a cardiac event and coded on the students while they were caring for her.
“It was amazing to watch them work as a team; they have already learned so much,” commented Dr. Courtney.
The skill on Day 3 was the intravenous delivery of medications. The students learned how to tie a tourniquet, find a vein, and insert a catheter. The final “patient” case had diabetes and required the students to implement their knowledge of diffusion.
MEDsciences’ longer 7-unit curriculum, incorporated into Rivers’ Anatomy classes, focuses on a series of different human body systems. Students travel twice weekly into Boston for labs which coincide with the topics they are studying at Rivers. They also have the opportunity to meet with medical professionals to learn about various aspects of the field of medicine and health care.
Both this mini-course and the Anatomy course collaboration with MEDscience are fully funded by a generous contribution from Rivers parents Nancy Adams and Scott Schoen.