UK’s Outreach Center Makes Health Sciences Fun and Accessible
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 5, 2011) − The first time you walk through the doors of the University of Kentucky Outreach Center for Science and Health Opportunities, you might be surprised by what you see.
Full-size skeletons. Lungs of all shapes and sizes, from the mighty set of a thoroughbred down to the tiny pair from a mouse. A spinal cord, neatly dissected for inspection. All real, all preserved for learning.
It’s all part of introducing young Kentuckians to the wonders of the human body. Started in 1993 by Dr. Donald Frazier, who serves as its director, the Outreach Center has helped educate thousands of Kentucky kids about the world of science and has facilitated the progress of young people toward health-related careers including biomedical research.
Teachers from across the state can request a visit to the Outreach Center – a field trip for the kids – or a visit from the center’s mobile classroom. Frazier and other faculty give age-appropriate presentations on gross anatomy, genetics, physiology or health career options.
For the younger set, that may mean something like a discussion and ultrasound demonstration of how the circulatory system works. For older kids, it may mean the chance to hold a real human brain or heart in their hands for some hands-on learning in anatomy.
The Outreach Center was created, says Frazier, because the College of Medicine saw a need to motivate kids to take an interest in science.
“Initially, the Outreach Center was a way to get kids to appreciate the basic tools inherent in science – in other words, not to run away from chemistry or math and other related subjects,” Frazier said. “And to really motivate them to stay in school and take care of themselves. We were to be a resource for the classroom teachers throughout the state.”
For a transcript of this video, click here.
These days, the Outreach Center is multi-faceted. In addition to being a resource for teachers during the school year, the center hosts several summer programs, including ones targeted for minority and rural students. But the center’s biggest summer program is the Professional Education Preparation Program for students interested in medicine and dentistry, known as PEPP.
PEPP was developed after the state passed a bill mandating that UK and the University of Louisville make a concerted effort to make young Kentuckians from targeted underserved counties more competitive for careers in health care. To attend this popular program, students must be residents from one of the 90 rural counties or two urban areas designated as an underserved population.
PEPP is divided into two steps – PEPP I, which is for students who have just graduated high school and will be entering college as freshman the following fall, and PEPP II, a more in-depth program for older college students who have completed the first phase and have a definite interest in health care. These students will get to experience medicine being practiced firsthand, with rotations in the operating room and labor and delivery, as well as clinical site visits for dentistry, psychiatry and pediatrics.
“We started with PEPP I by bringing in these high school seniors and introducing them to college professors and exposing them to the level at which these courses would be taught, how to take notes, how to take exams,” Frazier said. “Then we sort of said, well, if you’re going to get the students motivated and into the program, we need to follow up. PEPP II is focused on helping these kids become more competitive when they start applying to schools in medicine and dentistry.”
Korey Brammell, a PEPP II student from Grayson, Ky., says the program has helped solidify the career path he wants to take.
“I did the first PEPP after my senior year, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Brammell said. “It completely confirmed that I wanted to go to medical school. I joined PEPP II because I wanted to get more experience.”
Brett Dickens, another PEPP II participant from Owensboro, Ky., says the program is helping to prepare him for what to expect in the real world.
"I think PEPP gives us a better general understanding in both medicine and dentistry, as far as working conditions and what we can expect to see," Dickens said. "They are teaching us a lot as far as patient care, and what it's going to require of us in the future."
Getting help to prepare for the MCAT is another huge benefit to joining PEPP II, says Elliott House of London, Ky., a sentiment his classmates echoed.
“Many of my friends would agree with me that the MCAT preparation is one of the biggest benefits,” House said. “Many of us are at that point in our college careers right now where we need to be gearing up for graduate school testing.”
For a transcript of this video, click here.
One of the biggest draws of the Outreach Center is Frazier himself, who is a professor emeritus in the College of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering. High-energy and personable, Frazier keeps his presentations light and lively, drawing even his quietest students into discussions like ethics and morals in health care.
Though he officially retired from the university 10 years ago, he still serves as director of the Outreach Center, earning his salary from his current grant, which runs until 2014. But Frazier continues his work at the center because he truly loves what he does – getting young people interested in health and science.
“This is fun for me,” Frazier said. “The bottom line is that these kids are awesome, the human body is awesome, and they have an awesome responsibility to learn to take care of it.”
Teachers from across the state can request a visit to the Outreach Center – or a visit from the center’s mobile classroom – by contacting tour coordinator Lisa Stevens at (859) 257-6440 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on PEPP Scholars, contact program director Carol Leslie at (859) 257-1968 or email@example.com.
MEDIA CONTACT: Allison Perry, (859) 323-2399 or firstname.lastname@example.org.