Twenty-six high-school science students took part in an exploratory program at Christiana Care to learn more about hospital careers that draw from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The STEM mentorship experience is the brainchild of John Vorrasi, D.D.S., associate program director for Christiana Care’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency Program and section chief of the OMS clinics.
“Our goal was to reach out to students who may be considering a STEM-related career and to give them exposure to some of the hospital applications for what they are learning in school,” Dr. Vorrasi said. “Everyone is excited about continuing the program next year, and it looks like twice as many students will sign up to participate.”
In partnership with Red Clay Consolidated School District, the STEM exploratory was inaugurated at the Conrad Schools of Science, an allied health/biotech magnet choice school for grades six through 12 in Wilmington.
“Getting students in the door before they make decisions that greatly impact their future — choosing a school and or major — is crucial,” said Superintendent Mervin B. Daugherty, Ed.D. “With Dr. Vorrasi’s help, we turned conceptual ideas and understandings into concrete ones, and the students gained firsthand experience with the professions and technologies they can only read about in class,” he said. “I will do whatever is necessary to make this partnership continue to grow and thrive.”
The STEM mentorship experience created an avenue of opportunity that broadened awareness for the students and also solidified the importance and value of clinical applications for patient care.
The students who visited both Christiana Care campuses this year were enrolled in Conrad’s biomedical sciences curriculum, adapted from Project Lead the Way’s national model. Dr. Vorrasi visited the students at school to introduce the program and talk about the hospital and his specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery. On three separate field trips, the students experienced hands-on training and learned about medical procedures in the ICU and Emergency Department at Wilmington Hospital and the Virtual Education and Simulation Training Center at Christiana Hospital. Discussion topics included trauma triage, fundamentals of CPR, infection prevention, respiratory care, intensive-care nursing, pharmacy practices, patient nutrition and physical therapy.
“This was the most authentic field learning experience we could have wanted,” said science teacher Robert Naylor. “The best thing for my students was just getting in the door of the hospital and having the luxury to talk with such knowledgeable professionals.”
A visit to the Christiana Care simulation center ranked high on the students’ list of favorites — in particular, the chance to try out the high-tech da Vinci Robotic Surgery System. “Students are seldom given the opportunity to operate big-ticket items like that,” Naylor said. “The experience further solidified for some that their future is indeed in the biomedical sciences.”
The STEM exploratory concluded in April, when the students returned to the John H. Ammon Medical Education Center at Christiana Hospital to make presentations on their experiences. They were asked for suggestions on how to improve a particular process or practice they learned about in the hospital. Ideas percolated around ideal operating capacity and ways to streamline patient discharges, proactive vs. reactive treatment, eCare to extend hospital resources and the cost/benefits of automatic CPR devices in the Emergency Department.
Facilitated by a Christiana Care Community Service and Education grant, the STEM exploratory is an example of how Christiana Care encourages innovative programs that benefit our community.
“Christiana Care continues to place great value in partnering with multiple community audiences, where we are able to offer rich experiences that ultimately contribute to a greater thirst for improved processes within the medical care arena,” said Vaughn Wright, Ed.D., director, Graduate Medical Education, who also facilitated the STEM exploratory. “The STEM mentorship experience created an avenue of opportunity that broadened awareness for the students and also solidified the importance and value of clinical applications for patient care. For many, the experience gave a life-changing focus to the fields of technology innovation within the health care arena.”