Pulse of Surgery: An Education Program for Middle & High School Students

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

          I was at a Circle of Red & Red Tie Society reception recently where Mark Slaughter, M.D. was the keynote speaker. Mark Slaughter, M.D., director of the University of Louisville Division of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery & Director of the Heart Transplant and Mechanical Assist Device Program at Jewish Hospital, was speaking about a ventricular assist device (VAD). He casually mentioned an education program for middle and high school students called the Pulse of Surgery at the Louisville Science Center. As a health educator, I wanted to find out more about this innovative program designed to help our young students get excited about health care and new health care technology.

What is the Louisville Science Center’s Pulse of Surgery Program?

Dr. Slaughter is in the front roll with the booties on!

Dr. Slaughter modeled the Pulse of Surgery after a very successful program, Live from the Heart, which was created in Chicago before he was hired by the University of Louisville.  Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation initially pledged $128,500 and the Greater Louisville Medical Society pledged $100,000 to fund the technology necessary to bring a live feed from the Jewish Hospital surgical suite to classrooms at the Louisville Science Center. The program was launched on January 12, 2011.

The goal is to boost middle and high school student’s interest in medical careers and to promote healthy lifestyles.  Each student is given a workbook for note taking as well as clipboard and pen. Louisville Science Center facilitators, under the direction of Molly Carpenter, act as facilitators who field students’ questions and answers while the live surgery is being performed on TV monitors. The surgeons and OR nurses have microphones and discuss specifics of what they are doing as the surgery goes forward. Dr. Slaughter said, “As students watch and interact with my surgery team, they will receive exposure to advanced sciences and technology, which will enable them to better understand the education necessary to obtain a health care career from nurse to anesthesiologist to surgeon.  It is my hope that this program will inspire young minds to choose the health care field for future employment and live a healthier lifestyle.”

Molly Carpenter shows the students the heart and what’s happening during the surgery on the TVs.

I went, I Saw, I’m Impressed at the Louisville Science Center’s Pulse of Surgery Program

The Pulse of Surgery program is offered at the Louisville Science Center every other Wednesday.  Barbara Mackovic, who works in the PR Department at Jewish Hospital, informed me that the Pulse of Surgery was happening on Wednesday so I decided to experience the program myself. The program starts with the surgery team introduction.  Each health professional shares with the students their background which includes why they chose their career path and their educational process they went through to accomplish their goals.

Mark Sieckman, executive assistant at the Louisville Science Center, accompanied me to the two classrooms where he answered many of my questions about the program.   There were 170 students participating in the program from Central High School, Henryville Junior/Senior High School and Nelson County High School.  I spoke to one of the teachers from Nelson County High School. She said the students were from the AP biology and the anatomy & physiology classes. Many of these students were interested in medical school and nursing. One of the young men actually wanted to be a cardio thoracic surgeon, according to his teacher, and sure enough he had a number of really great questions to ask the surgeons! One question was concerning whether the heart lung machine affected the heart and the blood in a negative way. Dr. Williams, the lead surgeon, responded that is does affect the heart and blood minimally but the coronary artery bypass surgery is life saving even though there were some negatives.  Students also asked about how exercise or lack of exercise affects the heart which was another excellent question in my opinion. These detailed questions from the students helped me to realize many of these students were fully engaged in the learning experience!

The student workbook was excellent in my opinion and carefully designed as a tool that provided information but also allowed the student for personal evaluations. While the workbook provided the students with a lot of information about the actual surgery there was ample space for note taking. In addition, the workbook has a section on How Does Your Health Measure Up?  Engaged students can also reflect in the workbook what their thoughts were about the surgery and the learning experience. 

I wish all of my 12 grandchildren, when they are older, would have an opportunity to experience a program like the Pulse of Surgery. My thumbs up for all the people who were responsible for creating this very innovative interactive program at the Louisville Science Center!  

Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N., is a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in clinical nutrition.  The former publisher of Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine, Kentuckiana Healthy Woman magazine and radio show host of Health News You Can Use, Barbara has over 30 years of experience in promoting healthy lifestyles to consumers.  Barbara worked as Nutrition Consultant to the Navy SEALs (8 years) and the University of Louisville Athletic Department (10 years). Barbara has private practice, DayByDay Nutrition, www.DayByDayNutrition.com, where she counsels clients on weight loss, cholesterol management, performance nutrition and an array of other medical issues.  Visit Barbara’s new website which is an on-line health & wellness magazine, www.KentuckianaHealthWellness.com. Barbara writes nutrition and health columns for www.LiveStrong.com as well as a weekly nutrition column for the Southeast Outlook. She also designs and presents employee wellness programs to small and large businesses. Barbara is a runner, cyclist, hiker and a mother and grandmother to 12 grandchildren.    




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