By Seth Daniel
Middle schoolers are historically hard to keep the attention of, but last Friday morning at Tufts University Medical School, a large group of students sat quietly in the dental lab transfixed on preparing and making dental teeth impressions.
There was no need to call for quiet, or re-focus the youngsters from the Wright Middle School onto the task at hand. They were all busy at work, taking instruction from the volunteer second-year medical and dental students.
The field trip was part of the partnership between the Wright and students at Tufts who have formed the Ideas in Medicine program. Every year, second-year medical students in the organization volunteer to show Chelsea students around the school, exposing them to dental work, CPR, medical school classes and anatomy lessons – among other things.
“This program was set up five to seven years ago,” said Aditya Gill of Ideas in Medicine. “The whole concept here is to get the seventh graders at the Wright exposed to the medical school. It’s an underserved community and we wanted to get the students here to spark their interest. The whole process is one where we don’t want to shove information down the student’s throat. They’re giving up their free time, so we want to show them this place in a fun way…You never know, one kid could be inspired here and have a dream to become a dentist or get involved in the medical field. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Brian Coffey, also a second year medical student, is the president of Ideas in Medicine. He said he enjoys showing the kids what’s done here as much as they do.
For example, instead of feeding them formulas, some of the presentations dealt with simple chemical experiments like mixing Mentos and Diet Coke to cause an explosion. After showing them what happens, they explained the chemical reason for the reaction.
Nick Matthew, a seventh grade science teacher at the Wright, said the program has been very good for the kids and has gotten their interest.
“It gives them a firsthand view of life outside of Chelsea and how people studying these things get to their careers and train for it,” he said. “For many students, leaving Chelsea is a big event. It’s great to get them out and out of the classroom and see what science is and how to apply it.”
The mentors of IDEAS in Medicine are first and second year medical students of Tufts University School of Medicine who volunteer their time each week planning, tutoring, and coordinating program activities. The volunteers are motivated by their enthusiasm in teaching and giving to the community. The field trip last Friday was the culminating event for the IDEAS in Medicine program – a year-long tutoring and mentoring partnership aimed at getting the kids excited about the health sciences.