Creighton Medical School visitors expand horizons of Red Cloud students

posted on March 13, 2012

Eight students from Creighton Medical School in Omaha, Neb. made the choice this year to do something different for Spring Break.

Instead of relaxing on a Florida beach or road-tripping with friends, the students spent a week in Pine Ridge, teaching Red Cloud kids about science, medicine, and health. Every student within the Red Cloud School system got the opportunity to learn from members of the group, as they spent two days at Our Lady of Lourdes in Porcupine, two days working with Red Cloud Elementary and Middle School students, and one day teaching in the high school.

This is the seventh year of the Creighton-Red Cloud partnership, which was originally conceived by former Red Cloud volunteer (and later Creighton Medical School graduate) Jason Beste. When it began in 2006, it joined a host of other partnerships between the two Jesuit schools, including a mentoring program related to the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

The programs presented to the Kindergarten–8th grade students took two forms. The first, entitled “Body Basics,” featured three interactive learning stations that the students rotated between. At the heart station, students had the opportunity to hold and inspect a genuine sheep heart, and compare it to a labeled heart model. They were also shown how to listen to their heartbeats, and take a person’s pulse.

At the eye station, students were able to learn about tools used in eye exams, with a real cow eye for reference. Sixth grader Shelby Pourier enjoyed this component the most. She said, “My favorite part [of the Creighton presentations] was seeing the cow’s eye. I remember feeling the pupil, and it felt like a marble.”

Finally, at the bone station, students learned about bone and joint health, and got to practice using reflex hammers on each other. Sixth grader Lala Kelly enjoyed this session in particular. She recalled, “My favorite part was when we learned about the femur and all the other bones. I learned that if you hit the patella, your leg will go up.”

Overall, the Body Basics program was designed to teach the students some selected fundamentals of anatomy and physiology. The students also learned about some experiences they might commonly encounter at the doctor’s office, and the use of some of the tools that doctors often employ in routine examinations. Eighth grader Leannan Vitalis, whose favorite part of the program was the bone unit, saw the experience as a good fit for her future plans, saying, “[Creighton] gave me a boost on wanting to learn more about bones, and [wanting to go] into the medical field when I’m older.”

The second component of the curriculum – which was the focus of the second day of the elementary school visits – was entitled “Fit for Life.” It included interactive learning stations on nutrition and the food pyramid, reading food labels, and exercise. It also featured a great deal of information on diabetes, which is inordinately common on the reservation. Sixth grader Derek Broken Rope reported, “I learned how much sugar is in foods and how much is in each serving. Also, what Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes can do to your body.”

The final day of the medical students’ visit was spent in the high school, teaching a specially-prepared lesson to Kelleigh Huff’s biology and health students throughout the day. Among other demonstrations, the high schoolers were also shown a video of an open-heart surgery, which one student described as “extraordinary.”

Both Creighton and Red Cloud believe the medical partnership to be extremely valuable, and the hope is that it will continue to be an annual event for the foreseeable future. Seventh grader Wakinyan Fourney perhaps best summed up the positive response of the students: “I was thankful to the Creighton University [students] for coming…I really appreciated it. We need more of this on the Reservation; a lot more educational presentations. I wish more Creighton presenters could come and teach us CPR and more.”

A sincere sentiment, although of course, kids will be kids. When asked what she learned from the presentations that was most memorable, sixth grader Bella Fillspipe answered, “That cow eyeballs are gross.”

More photos of the event can be found here.