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Medical Students Go Back to High School, Teach Science

By Annie Gilbertson | Published 13 Oct 2011 12:45pm | comments

High school science lessons in Mississippi may be getting some new blood - med students have taken on the role of teaching!  MPB's education reporter, Annie Gilbertson, explains how this Jackson Public Schools' pilot program works and when you can expect a future doctor in a classroom near you.

All the Jim Hill High School students in Susan Bender's science class are dressed in medical scrubs.  Second-year med student, Thompson Liddell, is showing them a photo of someone holding a enlarged spleen, no smaller than a medium-sized dog.

Liddell: “Obviously to see an organ that a person is holding in both hands which is about two and half feet across. Which is outrageous.  That probably hardly ever happens, but it’s a good visual image and it's interesting.”

None of the kids are visibly grossed-out, but they do stop Liddell frequently to ask questions about the many other side effects of Malaria.  And he's only here for an hour, so they fight to get their questions in.

Liddell came over from the University of Mississippi Medical Center as part of a pilot program called Homerun headed by UMC, Jackson Public Schools and the Mississippi Department of Education's Office of Healthy Schools.  How Homerun performs this year will determine whether or not other school districts in the state get to request a science lesson from a med student.

Bender: “And if today’s is any indication of how we are going to measure success, I think we are off to a roaring start.”

Susan Bender is the teacher that spearheaded this project.  She says it’s all about exposing students to new scientific subject matter and career pathways.

Bender: “They need avenues of interest.  They may not even be sure in 10th grade or 11th grade what they are interested in.  So once you see that spark, that light come on, then you give the opportunity and kind of push them in that direction.”

High School Senior Drake Sanders says it wasn't the material in the lesson that got him thinking, but the visiting instructor.

Sanders: “At one point in time, I was like ‘I don’t know if I’ll make it to medical school.’ But just to see someone come in and talk to us about it and tell us how you can learn and you are able to make it to medical school, it gives me hope.”

The Homerun project will be reviewed by the Mississippi Department of education later this year. If collaborators chose to expand, UMC will be able to provide some 400 med students to high school science classes.

From the Southern Education Desk, for MPB News, I'm Annie Gilbertson.

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