Learning About the Human Body with SMILE Docs

Posted by Corey Burdick on 5/3/2019 9:45:00 AM

Making discoveries about the human body and all of its systems can be fascinating at any age, but what if, instead of gathering information from textbooks or the web, you could engage in hands-on learning with actual doctors or in this case, doctors in training? This year, 4th grade students in Chris Provost and Cindy Tan's classes at Chamberlin School have had the opportunity to do just that!

The hour and a half long lessons on the human body are led by first and second year University of Vermont medical students who volunteer their time through SMILE Docs, which is a Student Interest Group (SIG) run out of the Larner School of Medicine. According to one of this year's SIG leaders, Emily Straley, SMILE Docs began as a Schweitzer Project, implemented by Jeremy Hertzig and Britta Seppi, who were Larner College of Medicine students in 2001. Schweitzer Fellows make a commitment to provide 200 hours of service (per project) conducting year-long projects that address the health needs of underserved populations.

This school year, SMILE Docs conducted a total of 16 sessions between both classes. Topics included first aid, the digestive system, healthy bones and muscles, heart health, the 5 senses, and the respiratory system. During the sessions, students had the opportunity to learn about basic physiology using anatomical models, medical instruments, and pathology samples donated to the program by the University of Vermont Health Center.

May 1, students worked in three groups to “Make their own Human Body.” They discussed how various organ systems interact, where the organs are located in the body, and how to keep them healthy. New lessons on micronutrients and nutrition as well as “Medical Mysteries” will be added soon.

Straley said, “SMILE Docs is a great opportunity for students to work with medical students to become more engaged in the sciences and their health. It is also an excellent opportunity for us to build relationships with the community we will be serving as physicians.”

At the moment, there are 40 medical students involved in the program and only 5 schools enrolled (in the greater Burlington area), although three more classes will be added next year. That way, even more students, both medical and elementary, can continue to benefit from this symbiotic relationship.

Of the latest lesson, teacher Chris Provost said, “Students were engaged and always enjoy working with the college students, sharing their knowledge and understanding.” The students left the session not only with newfound knowledge, but their own “life-size” models to keep!

More lessons to come next year!

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