Medical Careers class engages student through hands-on learning



Every Thursday, students from the Medical Careers class go to Harvard Medical School to partake in patient simulations.

Cassidy Washburn, Staff Writer

Biology. While many students hear the word and groan, imagining a dull classroom full of students slumped over in their chairs, Medical Careers students conjure up the vibrant image of maroon scrubs, chattering voices and operating rooms.

For Medical Careers students, biology is not classroom lecture but a real-life experience.

The Medical Careers Elective offered at Brookline and other schools around the Boston area, gives a diverse array of students an opportunity to practice medicine in high school.

Harvard Medical School MEDscience (HMS MEDscience), the official name for the organization which works with Boston Public Schools and schools in the Greater Boston Area, strives to make high quality programming available to a diverse array of students through a hands-on STEM class. Julie Joyal, the program’s Executive Director started the program with Nancy Oriol after studying Educational Policy at Harvard.

The idea was to teach a biology curriculum and make the science come to life one day per week; to get out of the school, go to Harvard Medical School and to bring science to life,” Joyal said.

Joyal and Oriol founded the program with the intention of lowering educational disparity between schools in the Boston area.

“We are in 15 Boston Public Schools because we want to offer high-quality programming to kids who normally couldn’t afford it,” Joyal said.

Though kids in the class come to Harvard Medical School from all over, they all come with one goal: to deepen their interest of the medical field and learn more about what pursuing a medical career entails.

Sophomore Maya Leschly interned for the fall semester Brookline Medical Careers class after taking a course at HMS MEDscience over the summer.

“I’ve always been super interested in science and I’m really passionate about STEM fields. It seemed like a great way to do hands on learning in a time when you take a biology class or a chemistry class, and it’s really hard to see how it applies to real life or the future or a job. I’m really passionate about science and think that this could be a good application of it,” Leschly said.

During the semester long program, students spend two days a week in a classroom learning about a body system and one day a week at Harvard Medical School applying the knowledge they learned to a real-life situation using a mannequin patient called a STAN.

Junior Julia Langone participated in the fall semester of the program and learned new medical skills during the class.

“We had so many opportunities,” Langone said. “We learned how to do stitches on fake skin, which is really cool. We learned how to put in an IV, and we learned how to intubate.”

When the semester begins, many students are unsure about working in the simulations and hesitate to take a leadership role, but as the class continues, students build up their problem solving skills as well as their self confidence according to junior Tobin Getsad, who also took the fall semester course.

“I think the class was really good for team building skills and learning how to have both an individual and a team mentality. You needed to work off your own knowledge and also collaborate as a team to get the most stuff done, so I thought that was really interesting,” Getsad said.

When creating the curriculum, Joyal wanted to ensure that students develop critical thinking skills that will stay with them through the rest of their lives.

“My pedagogy – which is the way in which you teach – is very unique. It’s open ended questioning. We never ask a question that the kids can’t answer. What this program is really about is trying to teach critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and communication skills,” Joyal said.

HMS MEDscience opens up a whole new world to so many of its participants, showing them a new way of learning and teaching students life-long skills which will stick with them forever.

“I think it’s just something that you really have to be part of it to experience it, but the way that it is run is just so fascinating. It never feels like work; it always feels like something that is super interesting, something that you’re learning all the time,” Leschly said. “You’re just always on your feet and you’re thinking. I think it’s challenging in such a good way and it really pushes you to think outside the box. It’s so much fun!”