Twenty-four area high school students visited Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine last week to study the brain as part of the school’s community outreach.
Area high schoolers go beyond the books at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
Avondale at OUWB - Main
OUWB M1 Stephanie Roskelly (right) works with Avondale student Chance Harris to dissect a sheep brain.

Twenty-four area high school students visited Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine last week to study the brain as part of the school’s community outreach.

The students were from an anatomy class at Avondale High School in Auburn Hills.

The first-of-its-kind event was led by OUWB’s Student Interest Group in Neurology/Neurosurgery (SIGN) and made possible through a grant from Compass, OUWB’s department for community engagement.

Those who helped coordinate the event generally wanted to provide a unique, beyond-the-books experience for the students.

“I hope this is one of those particularly memorable days they have in high school,” said Katie Wheeler, M1 representative, SIGN. “I remember having things like this in high school, and it really propelled me forward to get into medicine. I hope this event lights a fire inside of them to pursue medicine or science in general.”

Sharon Hyde, principal, Avondale High School, stressed the importance of the hands-on experience for the high schoolers.

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“Many of our students want to go into the medical field, and I think they learn greatly from seeing medical students who are slightly older than them being successful and sharing their experience,” said Hyde. “Often they’re more willing to learn from students in the field.”

The event kicked off in one of OUWB’s lecture halls with a brief overview of the human brain from Joseph Fullmer, M.D., Ph.D, neuropathologist, Beaumont Health, and assistant professor, Department of Pathology, OUWB.

During the engaging session, students asked many questions about the brain pertaining to topics such as sleep, dreams, concussions, and the impact of smoking/vaping and alcohol.

Fullmer said he felt the questions were particularly relevant to their lives, and created an opportunity for him to have quality engagement with the high school students.

“A lot of people don’t know about medical careers and how exciting it can be,” he said. “I’m very much an advocate for STEM and helping these students recognize their potential.”

A memorable anatomy lab experience

Avondale at OUWB - SideFollowing Fullmer’s lecture, the students moved to the OUWB Anatomy Lab, where they were split up into smaller groups with each taking part in dissection of a sheep brain.

“It felt like we were in a real medical lecture and it was super interesting to learn about the different parts of the brain,” said Qijia Zhou, senior, Avondale High School.

Zhou — with a lengthy list of accomplishments that includes a perfect ACT score of 36 — plans to attend Harvard University next fall.

Zhou said she is currently undecided in course of study, but the interactive OUWB event definitely piqued her interest in the possibility of medicine.

She noted that being able to dissect a sheep’s brain is “completely different” than learning about it from a book or online.

“Pictures are nice and color-coded, but seeing it in real life and touching it makes it easier to remember things for me,” she said.

That was exactly the point of the day, according to Alexandra Beels, who teaches biology, anatomy, physiology, and wilderness survival at Avondale.

“I have a very diverse group of students, and they don’t always get to get out and do things like dissect a sheep brain and interact with medical students,” she said. “If that gets them more interested in the sciences, then I’m happy.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu
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