The COVID-19 pandemic altered summer plans for most, but Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine continued with its outreach programs for area youth — relying on tech to make it happen.

OUWB’s summer youth outreach programs go virtual for 2020
An image from HNO's Summer Anatomy Program in 2020
The OUWB-Hispanic Newcomer Outreach (HNO) Summer Anatomy Program continued as part of a virtual camp hosted by Pontiac-based La Casa Amiga, a nonprofit community service for immigrants and their families. Sessions were held via Zoom.

The COVID-19 pandemic altered summer plans for most, but Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine continued with its outreach programs for area youth — relying on tech to make it happen.

The Future Physicians Enrichment Program, organized annually by OUWB’s Diversity & Inclusion, continued via Google Classroom.

Concurrently, the OUWB-Hispanic Newcomer Outreach (HNO) Summer Anatomy Program continued as part of a virtual camp hosted by Pontiac-based La Casa Amiga, a nonprofit community service for immigrants and their families. Sessions were held via Zoom.

In recognizing the importance of both programs, organizers relied on a blend of creativity and technology — instead of simply cancelling — to reach area youth who are interested in medicine.

“(OUWB) faculty and Diversity & Inclusion are committed to the mission of OUWB to serve the community and improve diversity and inclusion in medicine and health related fields,” said Caryn Reed-Hendon, Ph.D., director of Diversity & Inclusion, OUWB.

“The online program gave us the opportunity to provide a summer enrichment opportunity to youth and reach kids all around the area,” she added.

Similar sentiments were echoed by the team behind HNO’s Summer Anatomy Program, including Claudio Cortes, Ph.D., assistant professor of Immunology, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, OUWB.

“Continuing our summer anatomy program during this pandemic not only has a positive impact on our children within the community but it is also beneficial for our medical students,” said Cortes.  

Cortes helped start the program and serves as faculty coordinator. 

“Continuing these programs in a virtual setting, helps to keep the bond between the children and our students which can aid in help both mentee and mentor cope through these unprecedented times,” he added. “It also allows the medical students to continue to learn and be involved in the Hispanic community, working to better understand the culture and the continual needs of the community.” 

‘Their were just so excited’

Typically, the OUWB-Hispanic Newcomer Outreach (HNO) Summer Anatomy Program is part of a summer camp at La Casa Amiga.

Six sessions — each dedicated to a specific organ system — are spread out across three weeks. They are a combination of lecture and hands-on activities.

Cheryne Kim and Brittany Silverman — both second-year medical students at OUWB — signed up before the COVID-19 pandemic to organize the HNO summer anatomy program. They decided to move forward with the program, obviously adjusting for a virtual environment.

 “Everything was via Zoom…we still had six sessions and talked about six different organ systems,” she said.

An image of students from the HNO Summer Anatomy sessions

Participants in the summer anatomy program used crafts to engage with OUWB students virtually.

The group created hands-on elements for the students by sending them art supplies to do crafts for each unit. In one example, participants learned how to make homemade stethoscopes using plastic tubing, funnels, and a balloon. (For safety, all materials were sent to La Casa Amiga, which then distributed the materials to students.)

The materials were paid from a grant HNO received from Compass, OUWB’s community engagement address.

Kim and Silverman said the students were engaged throughout each session.

“Even though it was online and via computer, they were just so excited that we incorporated these art projects into each session,” said Silverman. “Because we made it so interactive and they love doing these projects, they really were with us for the whole 90 minutes.”

Future Physicians program rolls on

The OUWB Future Physicians Summer Enrichment, in its eighth year, typically runs two weeks in June. The program is interactive in nature, allowing high-school age students to learn about socio-medical issues and the human body through technology, demonstrations, and hands-on experiences. Each student has the opportunity to ask questions about form and function, common diseases and illnesses, and widely used diagnoses.

Students’ days are packed with learning opportunities around campus, covering topics such as histology, immunology, neuroscience, genetics and more.

During the program, students usually spend time in OUWB classrooms in O’Dowd Hall as well as the school’s anatomy lab, where they discuss case studies in sessions led by medical students and OUWB Foundational Medical Studies faculty members. They also visit the Moceri Learning Center at Beaumont Troy.

For 2020, everything occurred online, thanks to Google classrooms, which allowed both synchronous and asynchronous engagements to be “scheduled” for students to access online at any time.

Topics examined were public health and disease outside the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related: 

OUWB Hispanic youth mentor program surpasses 3,500 hours of service

OUWB students, faculty volunteer to promote medical field to high schoolers

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Area high schoolers go beyond the books at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine

“Originally, we thought about discussing COVID-19 and disease,” said Reed-Hendon. “However, it was thought that students are coming in contact with information about COVID-19 daily and that we should try to focus on public health and disease outside of the current pandemic. Students are able to learn about an important issue in human health and society, learn tools that will help them to continue their learning journey, and apply what they have learned to self-directed discovery regarding this subject and other related subject like COVID-19.”

Each morning during the program, Reed-Hendon led a discussion with students to align them with daily goals and give faculty a chance to discuss their objectives. At that time, the resources for each day were released for students to begin their assignments. In addition, faculty members who were responsible for that day’s content were available to respond to student queries and request for additional information.

“Generally, students liked the program,” said Reed-Hendon. “It will never substitute for the rich faculty-student and team peer-to-peer interactions of the ‘regular program’ but the format could have other value to continue.”

“For instance, the online program might reach a much larger audience and help students with transportation or other challenges of timing to complete the program at their own pace, in a guided fashion,” she said.

Reed-Hendon said future versions of the program could actually benefit from the changes this year and have an even larger impact.

“It is our hope that in 2021 we will be able to get back to face-to-face instruction safely,” she said. “However, the creativity that came out of the pandemic for this year may have us hosting future programs in a hybrid state to accommodate many more individuals.”

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

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