Tennessee High School sophomore Victoria Good listens for simulated breathing in the Human Patient Simulation Laboratory during ETSU's Health Careers Leadership Summit Tuesday evening. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
This week, area high school students were offered a chance to learn the mechanics — sometimes literally — of how a medical school class operates.
On Tuesday evening, a select group of 40 students from regional high schools participated in East Tennessee State University’s Health Careers Leadership Summit at the Academic Health Sciences Center of the Quillen College of Medicine.
For Pooja Jagadish, a first-year medical student who helped organize the event, the night offered her and her fellow students a chance to showcase what their school has to offer in health care education to the region’s best high school health science students.
“We hope to teach about all of the colleges at the Health Sciences Center, which are medicine, nursing, pharmacy, clinical and rehabilitative sciences, and public health,” Jagadish said. “We had many, many applications, and we selected 40 of the best applicants, and they’re here tonight.”
The summit offered students glimpses into certain aspects of each medical field with specialized workshops that were instructed by the center’s students.
“We’re all students who are teaching tonight,” Jagadish said. “We’re trying to showcase what we’re capable of learning within two years and pass on our knowledge, and hope that students in high school will be able to make more educated career decisions about going into the health care profession.”
In addition to those goals, however, the summit also offered a chance for medical students to show off some of the school’s more advanced teaching methods. First-year student Alexandra Forth showed students the school’s Human Patient Simulator Laboratory, which was designed to show students how to interact with patients, both medically and socially. Forth’s class used a robotic mannequin, dubbed “Mrs. Smith,” to not only offer insight into how to conduct a portable chest X-ray, but also how to talk to patients to gain insight into their circumstances.
“I want you guys to take two minutes and take a history and figure out who she is and why she’s here,” Forth said, during a class. “Patients love it when they feel like they’re being heard. No matter what field you go into, the patient interview is important.”
For every question students asked, “Mrs. Smith” gave an answer. By using a two-way radio, a student on the other end spoke as Mrs. Smith to provide them with answers, along with some comic relief.
“I’m 68,” Mrs. Smith answered, when asked how old she was. “But people tell me I look 20.”
Through the course of the interview, students learned that Mrs. Smith was having difficulty breathing. That, according to Forth, needed more investigation.
“When someone comes to me and says, ‘I’m having a hard time breathing,’ the first thing that we should say is, ‘Tell me more about that,’” Forth said. “It can mean so many different things.”
After more questions, students learned Mrs. Smith had been short of breath for the past several days, and that she had been coughing up something “green and gross.” Tennessee High School sophomore Victoria Good then listened to Mrs. Smith’s chest through a stethoscope to listen for any unusual - albeit mechanical - sounds.
“I heard a little bit,” Good said. “It sounded just like someone breathing in.”
Once students isolated the problem area to Mrs. Smith’s chest, medical students Paige Morris and Adrian Walters demonstrated how to conduct a portable X-ray scan. Once the demonstration concluded, Good said she was impressed with what she saw in the human simulation lab.
“I want a career in radiology, so this is really good,” she said.
In addition to the Human Patient Simulation Lab, students were also offered a hands-on experience with organ systems in the Human Gross Anatomy Lab, and participated in more aerobic activities in an exercise science session.
Though the medical students wanted to demonstrate the value of their education, there was another factor Jagadish said she hoped was imparted on students. While Jagadish and her medical school colleagues hope to inspire students like Good, she added that she hoped some of those students would choose to have those careers in this region, which, she said, was in need of medical help.
“East Tennessee and southern Appalachia is a very medically under-served region,” she said. “One of our long-term goals would be to have more students hopefully enrolling in health professions and coming back and serving southern Appalachia.”