NeighborhoodHELP teaches kids how to be health professionals

med-kidsThis week, 500 children of all ages will not only find out what it’s like to do some cool things that health professionals get to do, they’ll also learn the fancy names for those jobs: listening to heart and lung sounds is called cardiopulmonary auscultation; examining ears and eyes are respectively referred to as otoscopy and ophthalmoscopy; mixing powders to make drug compounds is known as pharmacology.

The kids are taking part in the Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Health Care Conference: How to be a Health Professional – a highly-interactive, annual learning experience sponsored by the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP program. This year’s event is being held Nov. 5 at the Little Haiti Cultural Center.

“Our goal is to emphasize and highlight the actual hands-on aspect of the different health professions, thereby creating an experience for the students,” says GFF NeighborhoodHELP Community Director Luther Brewster, who has helped organize the event since its launch five years ago.

One big difference this year is that the kids also are getting free transportation to the event. “NHELP targets a population that will not go to a traditional clinic; so we go to them – consistent with that approach, we are picking up the kids and busing them in,” Brewster says.

In addition to increasing the number of students that go into health professions and college, the conference looks to support and encourage inner city students to become first generation college graduates by providing them with the tools to break the vicious cycle of social and economic disadvantage in their communities.

It all starts by planting the seed of curiosity.

Students are exposed to health professions some have never heard of or interacted with – jobs like nurse anesthetist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, or an attorney who specializes in health-related law. They are also introduced to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education) as a stepping stone to health professions.

But the fun part is that the kids get to learn by doing, they get to experience things like giving CPR, tying a surgical knot, intubating a simulator mannequin, bandaging a sprained ankle, preparing a tasty and healthy smoothie.

The kids will get to interact with FIU medical and nursing students and faculty members as well as volunteer health professionals from the community eager to share their passion about their work.

Brewster says past presenters have been a powerful inspiration for the young attendees. “Some have told me that to have someone who looks like them, who comes from where they come and shares their story and how they overcame obstacles to get to where they are, for them, it’s you know, reaffirming that they can do anything that they want in life.”

On Nov. 6, the conference moves from the real to the virtual world as demonstrations recorded the prior day will be will be played back during a virtual conference to be hosted in Haitian Creole on Facebook for the benefit of a group of students in Haiti.

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