Editor’s note: Our department is delighted to partner with the California Society of Anesthesiologists and the nonprofit organization Project Lead the Way in supporting an innovative biomedical curriculum at area high schools. This program sponsors field trips to sites at UCLA including the Simulation Center, the cardiac catheterization suite, and the cardiopulmonary research laboratory headed by Soban Umar, MD, PhD, who also directs our residency research program. This fall, we have hosted students from El Segundo High School and Venice High School on visits to campus. Medical student Varina Clark and premedical student Nancy Cao wrote this account of the El Segundo students’ visit.
Faculty members Christine Nguyen-Buckley, MD, Soban Umar, MD, PhD, and Jane Moon, MD, hosted an enthusiastic group of high school seniors from El Segundo High School on a visit to UCLA. Accompanied by their teacher, Donna Tucker (a former nurse), the students had an incredible opportunity to visit UCLA’s cardiac catheterization lab, explore Dr. Umar’s research laboratory, and ask questions about careers in medicine and anesthesiology.
While in the Center for Health Sciences, the students marveled at the research environment. Dr. Umar began the session with a dynamic discussion about normal cardiopulmonary function and pathological manifestations of cardiovascular disease and pulmonary hypertension. The students showcased their knowledge of the heart and were excited to learn more.
Medical students Varina Clark and John Park, along with premed undergraduate students Nancy Cao and Michael Zargari, supplemented this information with small-group demonstrations of real-time echocardiography of the mouse. The students eagerly watched as a mouse was anesthetized under isoflurane and probed with an ultrasound transducer, producing a live video feed of a healthy beating heart.
During this demonstration, students learned how to measure heart rate and respiratory rate using the accompanying electrocardiogram program. Next, the students reviewed echocardiography results of rats with pulmonary hypertension-induced right heart failure, which illustrated heart disease in the animal model.
The students were also excited to dive into histopathology where they could visualize healthy and diseased heart tissue of rats. Under Dr. Umar’s guidance, the students used the bright-field microscope to identify normal vs. pathological characteristics of rat heart tissue on trichrome-stained slides. At the end of the session, Dr. Umar gave an informal quiz as a recap for the learning activities of the research laboratory.
“What are the three colors of trichrome staining used to identify on histopathology slides?” he asked. The first student to answer correctly received a small prize. The research team was impressed by all of the students’ answers, detailed follow-up questions, and witty commentary.
Before heading off to their next activity, the students also had the opportunity to ask the medical students and physicians about their personal pathways into medicine and anesthesiology.
“Thank you so much for encouraging me to keep on pushing,” one student said to Varina Clark. Others shared an interest in research and inquired about potential volunteer opportunities at UCLA. The team members were delighted to share this experience with the students.
The students are participants in the biomedical curriculum at El Segundo, which is sponsored by the non-profit organization Project Lead the Way. The specialized curriculum and the teacher training needed for it are supported and funded by organizations including the California Society of Anesthesiologists (CSA). UCLA partners with CSA and Project Lead the Way in hosting student visits to campus. UCLA also sends anesthesiology residents to area high schools – including El Segundo, Venice High School, and the Girls’ Academic Leadership Academy – to discuss careers in health care and demonstrate techniques such as ultrasound used in the professional practice of anesthesiology.