LEWISBURG, WV (WOAY) – It’s not often that a high school student gets to experience the awe-inspiring feeling of holding a human heart. Besides the obvious educational value, touching the muscle tissue and seeing the organ’s chambers, valves and vessels promotes immense respect for the complexity of the body and the sanctity of life.
At the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine’s (WVSOM) Just Say KNOW! to Anatomy summer camp, which took place June 24-28, seeing human organs firsthand was just one of many activities young learners participated in.
For one week each summer, Just Say KNOW! turns the school’s campus into a place where high-schoolers take part in labs, lectures and exciting hands-on projects centered on a particular theme. Open to ninth- through 12th-graders and recent high school graduates, the program is designed to introduce young people to topics related to medicine.
Allie Douglas, a student who just completed 10th grade at Herbert Hoover High School in Elkview, W.Va., said the camp will help her reach her goal of becoming a doctor.
“You can read about the body in books or see it online, but to actually see it in person and touch it is completely different,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of fun and learned so much, and getting to work with a human donor was amazing. I wanted to broaden my understanding of the human body, and this has exceeded my expectations.”
Just Say KNOW! exposes teens to many of the resources medical students use. WVSOM students serve as instructors and demonstrate the uniqueness of osteopathic medicine by relating each activity to an osteopathic tenet. A record number of 17 students attended this year, with high-schoolers traveling from as far away as St. Albans, W.Va.
Biomedical faculty member Courtney Eleazer, Ph.D., who organized this year’s program, said the camp allows participants to explore science topics they’re unlikely to be exposed to in high school.
“This year, we set the bar pretty high in terms of our expectations of the campers, and they consistently exceeded our expectations,” Eleazer said. “I was so proud of their ability to work together to solve complex clinical cases, some of which were at the first-year medical student level.”
Several activities involved building working models of organs and systems, from the heart and lungs to the urinary and digestive systems. Participants practiced basic osteopathic manipulative medicine, learned to bandage sprains and took part in a project on medical ethics. In WVSOM’s anatomy lab, students examined a body donated through the school’s Human Gift Registry and looked at slides, X-rays and plastinations of organs related to the systems they were learning about.
The high-schoolers also had a chance to talk with professors and work-study students about research, and met with a nurse, a paramedic and a standardized patient to learn about careers in health care. The weeklong camp closed with a parent showcase, with each student assigned an organ and asked to describe its form and function in front of visiting family members.
The camp’s 2020 theme will be neuroscience. Previous camps in the series have included Just Say KNOW to Drugs! and Just Say KNOW to Infectious Diseases!