A sixth-grader from the Jacob Hiatt Magnet School gets his hand wrapped by a PA student during a recent field trip to MCPHS in Worcester.
Community | 4/10/2024

‘All These Jobs Are So Interesting’: Sixth-Graders Explore Healthcare Field at MCPHS Worcester

By Dana Barbuto

A sixth-grader from the Jacob Hiatt Magnet School gets his hand wrapped by a PA student during a recent field trip to MCPHS in Worcester.

A field trip to MCPHS in Worcester gets Jacob Hiatt Magnet School students excited about studying healthcare.

Disclosing tablets, which temporarily turn teeth pink to highlight areas with plaque buildup, gave Jacob Hiatt Magnet School sixth-grader Christian Cuadrado thoughts: “This tastes like Pepto.” A moment later, while looking in a mirror, he laughed and said, “I look like I’m wearing lipstick.”

A boy laughs at his pink teeth during a field trip.

Dental hygiene student Brooke Santiago said the harmless pink tablets stain the plaque left on teeth, showing areas that require greater cleaning effort. After brushing in circles, as Santiago advised, Christian rinsed his mouth and declared his teeth “nice and shiny.”

The activity was part of a field trip designed to excite students about STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math. Sixth-graders from the Jacob Hiatt Magnet School swept through Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) in Worcester, soaking up lessons on eating healthy foods, teeth brushing techniques, skills to make a good pharmacist, and more.

Carrie Graham, DHSc, MEd, director of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement and faculty associate in the School of Pharmacy, said the annual educational tour started more than 10 years ago. Dr. Graham organized this year’s field trip, which included 36 students ages 11-13 from the Worcester elementary school.

Sixth-graders from the Jacob Hiatt Magnet School visited MCPHS in Worcester during a recent field trip.

“Coming here allows our students to get deeper into topics we discuss in our classes,” said Mandy Eldridge, the lead sixth-grade teacher from the Jacob Hiatt School. “This opens their eyes to what’s available.”

The field trip included visits to the nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, and medical imaging departments, where MCPHS students and faculty led activities and provided educational insights. Each lab offered interactive experiences, and students received swag items like sunglasses, stress balls, and toothbrushes to commemorate their visit.

Associate program director Nicole Dettmann, DSc, MPH, PA-C, oversaw her physician assistant students as they practiced splinting skills on their young visitors. They were excited to leave with an Ace bandage wrapped around their wrists and a bone-shaped pen in their backpacks. As the children exited the PA lab, Dettmann reminded them not to keep the splints on too long. “Your joints will get stiff,” she said.

Down the hall in the Lincoln Ballroom, cadaver legs and other skeletal models caught the attention of a group of curious students. “These are the tools of our profession,” said Bruce Elliott, EdD, DPT, associate professor of physical therapy, pointing to a tuning fork, sliding board, neuro pinwheel, and percussion hammer to test reflexes. “These items help us measure, examine, and assess the body.”

Physical therapy students show a cadaver leg to sixth-graders from the Jacob Hiatt Magnet School in Worcester.

Dr. Elliott has been involved with the field trip since former MCPHS President Charles F. Monahan’s wife, Lenny, who used to volunteer at the Jacob Hiatt school library, proposed the idea. “It’s important we carry on this experience,” said Dr. Elliott, who showed up for the event five days after undergoing knee replacement surgery. “I couldn’t miss it.”

Upstairs in the Eye and Vision Center, students learned never to look directly at the sun and got a quick primer about eye anatomy. But the most fun was using the slit lamp, a microscope with a bright light used during an eye exam. Looking at her friend’s eyeball up close, Camila Gutierrez said, “I see her eyelashes and the colored part. That’s so cool.”

A girl gets her eyes checked during a recent field trip.

In the imaging lab, students saw pictures of their hearts during echocardiograms. Sixth-grader Shannon Osei described the sounds as “gushy and mushy” while her classmate asked the MCPHS student sonographers which healthcare profession has the highest salary.

A girl gets a sonogram on her arm.

Watching a movie clip of a scare simulation from the animated film “Monsters Inc.” helped Catherine Carroca, DHS, MSN, RN, an associate nursing professor, hit home what hands-on training means for nursing students. “Everyone practices,” she told the youngsters. After Dr. Carroca’s presentation, students took turns using stethoscopes to listen their hearts and lungs and tried to walk using impaired vision glasses.

A girl and boy use stethoscopes.

Brianne Morin, PharmD, Coordinator of Experiential Education and Assistant Professor in the School of Pharmacy, engaged students in distinguishing between medications and candy, emphasizing the importance of proper medication usage. No one could tell the difference between Ex-Lax and chocolate squares.

Sixth-graders from the Jacob Hiatt School in Worcester try to distinguish between medication and candy during an activity on a recent field trip to MCPHS.

The annual field trip is more than just a fun day out of the classroom, said Dettman, the PA clinical faculty member. “It’s a good window for our students into working with young patients, and it exposes the kids to the importance of STEM and opens them up to considering future career opportunities.”

Sixth-grader Alex Kuffour ranked his favorites: “PA, then optometry, then dental, then PT, then imaging, wait, all these jobs are so interesting.”