Medical Careers takes new approach to learning medicine



The Medical Careers class received a teacher grant from the Brookline Education Foundation (BEF) that will allow teachers in the class to “gain training and understanding of the functionality of the advanced equipment in this new lab, as well as to learn about specific medical situations that are negatively impacted by race-based misconceptions in medicine,” the BEF said.

In passing, you may have peered through the clear windows of a third-floor corner classroom and seen mannequins lying on stretchers. These mannequins, equipped with advanced technology, are used to teach students in Medical Careers.

The class presents a hands-on and collaborative experience for those interested in pursuing medicine as a future career. This course invites students into a self-driven curriculum through an independent journal instead of assessments. This class is currently available for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Science curriculum coordinator Ed Wiser, who teaches Medical Careers, said that the environment of this course allows students to independently and freely explore their passions for different medical fields.

“Exposing students to as many medical careers as possible, and also exposing them to what it’s like to be in a medical field, it’s a very different way to teach and learn than a science class, that is for sure,” Wiser said.

The class provides students with basic medical skills, such as suturing, reading an electrocardiogram and intubating. Medical Careers is equipped with mannequins that allow students to diagnose and treat patients in simulated medical emergencies. Sophomore Laura Araújo, a student in the class, said that she loved using mannequins as a way to learn and treat patients in emergencies.

“They speak so we can check their heart rate, their blood pressure, which is all really cool,” Araújo said. “They have lots of features. They are super helpful in simulating an emergency and doing things like that.”

Sophomore Yulia Grigoryeva, another student in the class, said the experience of suturing was thrilling.

“For me, it was extremely exciting and interesting,” Grigoryeva said. “Everybody is so supportive, even though we have people on different levels.”

Community volunteers with medical backgrounds have also come in to demonstrate various procedures from their professions, Wiser said.

“I’ve had a perinatologist come in and she brought in forceps and showed kids what a vacuum extractor looks like,” Wiser said. “That blew a lot of kids’ minds.”

Grigoryeva said that she resonated with one guest speaker in particular. This speaker described the ambiguity surrounding a career path and how stressful yet rewarding the process of choosing a medical field can be.

“We had an OB anesthesiologist, Dr. Chang, and she was really inspiring,” Grigoryeva said. “She kind of reassured me that the important thing is that you have the motivation to study and to work in the field in the future, and it doesn’t matter what situation you’re in if you really have the motivation to do it.”

Medical Careers, unlike many other classes, does not evaluate students through tests or quizzes. Instead, Wiser uses class journals, which students primarily write in independently, to track their progress throughout the course.

“Ultimately, they are not being assessed on tests or quizzes; they are being assessed on a journal that they’re writing,” Wiser said. “So, students who really want to dive in deep, can. Students who are not so interested in those details can avoid them, as long as they are writing something in their journals. That is my attempt to be as inclusive as possible for a wide range of learners.”

According to Araújo, the journals and research-based elements of this class foster in each student’s curriculum.

“By the end of the semester, we’re going to have a journal full of every single thing we learned in the class. For me, it’s really helpful because now I have so much information in one place,” Araújo said. “It’s a very organized, almost textbook, but specially tailored to you.”

In addition to the advanced medical curriculum that this class offers, Wiser said the course shows the importance of compassion and human interaction within medicine. Araújo said that the incorporation of storytelling in this class has impacted the way she empathizes with patients.

“There’s kind of two sides of medicine: the rational, ‘I need to treat this person’ side and also [the] emotional, ‘I want to help this person’ side,’” Araújo said. “[Wiser] makes me feel true compassion for patients with the stories he tells.”

Wiser said he felt that this side of medicine was exceptionally important to show students, especially those interested in studying medicine.

“I started off the year talking about a lot of my personal experiences because I think the thing that is the most captivating about medicine is the personal connection and storytelling,” Wiser said. “What are the beginning, the middle and the end of the story, and how do people persevere in the face of adversity? That’s essentially life in a nutshell.”