Students touring Ben Taub General Hospital.
Students touring Ben Taub General Hospital.
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Engaging Students: The Health Museum Hosts Conference for Gifted and Talented High School Students

Engaging Students: The Health Museum Hosts Conference for Gifted and Talented High School Students

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The Health Museum hosted more than 30 gifted and talented students from all over Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Mexico this past week for the Challenges and Solutions in Medicine in the 21st Century conference.

Over the course of four days, students were involved in a series of lectures conducted by professionals in the medical, health and sciences fields, tours of hospitals and institutions in the Texas Medical Center, lab activities and social events.

The conference is uniquely designed for gifted high school students who have a real interest in health and medicine.

“The Challenges and Solutions conference – which was a first for me – truly exceeded my expectations in many aspects including areas that I had never even expected. I learned so much without saturation which is essential in instances such as this so that students can truly benefit from the information presented and not be bombarded with a load of words and ideas that then are simply forgotten,” said student Adrian Lankenau. “I learned everything from what it is that professionals dedicate their time to in their respective fields, to what it is that I have to do to prepare myself and put myself in position of advantage in order to someday also achieve success in medicine.”

Amy Kapadia, senior program manager of the Education Department at The Health Museum, has been putting the conference together for six years.

“We are so lucky to be in Houston and have the best medical center in the world right here. For students to see firsthand what a surgeon is doing on any given day, and to be able to ask the top researchers in the world questions about their work is such a rare opportunity for most people,” said Kapadia.

Chief of Staff and Surgeon in Chief Kenneth Mattox, M.D., took students on a tour of Ben Taub General Hospital. Throughout the tour, students learned about how the hospital was started, watched patients being transported from ambulances into the hospital, watched a live surgery of a car crash victim, toured the ICU and learned about the lengths the hospital has to go to when identifying their patients.

Mattox explained to the students that because of the diverse and large population of Houston, there are several patients with the exact same names and even the same birthdays. When patients come in unconscious or unable to identify themselves, hospital staff can look them up through facial recognition.

After viewing the live surgery, many students were even more excited to begin their careers as doctors.

“I came into the conference having an interest in the field but not knowing what kind of doctor I want to be, but after watching the surgery, I feel really inspired,” said Shreya Dhutia, a student attending the conference.

Another student, Emmet Hagen, knew what he wanted to do before coming into the conference, but was inspired to look at it in a new way because of a lecture he attended by presenter Jun Gu, M.D., Ph.D., who is an assistant professor and education coordinator at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“I want to be a prosthetic surgeon because I like how nerves are similar to electronics. By translating neuro-signal into codes, I think I can create a minimally invasive surgery. After listening to Dr. Gu’s lecture, I think I have a new angle for it,” said Hagen.

The program also offered a social experience for the students.

“I am proud of how versatile the conference is. At the end, you see how many relationships have been formed. A lot of these students will go on to college together, maybe even be roommates, and it is nice to think that we helped facilitate that,” said Kapadia.

Each night after the sessions, students were involved in social activities put on by The Health Museum.

“Along with the unquestionable benefits from the professionals that I met during the conference, I was also very pleased with the social aspect of the event,” said Lankenau. “It is very easy at events like this for a student to find themselves isolated and never get to experience the thrill of also developing the social skills that can be built at events like this. Those skills are also essential in a person seeking any sort of career in medicine, and any corporate job, for that matter.”

The mentors for the conference are all college-age students who are studying to be in the health and medical field. They are hand selected by The Health Museum for their ability to work with children and their interest in the field.

“The experience was all that much better because of the dedicated staff that helped make the program run smoothly at all times and made sure that the students not only enjoy the academic side of the conference but also the social side,” said Lankenau. “Not once did I feel like things were going wrong or that the events were badly organized. Instead, there was a constant excitement from one activity to the other which was truly a reflection of the attitudes and professionalism from the mentors and directors of the conference.”

Francesco Vetrini, Ph.D., who works in the clinical genetics laboratory at Baylor, spoke to the students about his research on the future of genomic medicine. Vetrini took an interest in medicine at a young age while living in Naples, Italy.

“I think programs like this are very important to help stimulate interest in young people. I wish there had been something like this around when I was growing up because it would have given me a real insight into what is going on in the industry” said Vetrini.

For more information about this conference and programs like it, visit the Health Museum or go to their website, www.thehealthmuseum.org/.

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