Just before summer break, Purdy Elementary had another of its spectacular STEM-related events. Dr. Craig Hampton, a Purdy father, medical director and local cardiac surgeon, once again hosted “Heart Day.”
Students learned about the circulatory system with a specific focus on the heart. Hampton discussed how STEM can help people with defective heart valves. Students watched a video of a recent heart valve surgery to gain perspective as they prepared to “scrub in.”
The event culminated in an opportunity for students to sew a valve in a pig’s heart. Students were broken up into five teams; each student team was led by an expert in the field.
As Purdy STEM specialist Jenna Troyer described it, “a few of the many responses I received from fifth-grade students when I introduced the opportunity to participate in a STEM experience were: ‘Wait, a pig’s heart?!’ ‘You mean it actually came from a real pig?!’ ‘We get to dissect it?’”
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To make it happen, Hampton brought his team of physician assistants Michael Cavanaugh and Doug Rossi, perfusionist Jill Anderson, and Medtronic employee and former heart nurse Kathleen Russell, each of whom aided a student team.
“Many students got back in line to complete a second surgery. The day was a total success!” declared Troyer.
Troyer added, “Very few students graduate from high school in the U.S. who are interested in a STEM career. Even fewer graduate from college with the necessary skills.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected STEM occupations to grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022. What better way for students to get excited about a career in a STEM field then to place them right in the middle of it!
Fifth-grader Sarah Beth Olive learned how to sew “a valve into a heart. It’s a hard job. I understand how important surgeons are and now I know that I probably won’t be a surgeon when I grow up.”
The good doctor’s son, Brendan Hampton, really enjoyed heart day. “It was interesting to see what my dad and his colleagues do on a daily basis. The amount of focus and practice an individual needs to perform surgery is inspiring. I enjoyed the different stations and asking questions of people who are in operating rooms every day. Hopefully, other kids will get to participate in a similar experience in fifth grade.”
Cole Bashaw, then a fifth-grader, said, “I enjoyed working with Dr. Hampton on heart day. He taught us the importance of taking care of our hearts. Staying away from smoking and drugs will keep me on the right path to a healthy heart. Thank you for the amazing experience, Dr. Hampton.”
And thank you, Cole Bashaw!
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.