Cincinnati Children’s Hospital hosted the Middle School Science Symposium (MSSS) on Friday, October 25, 2019. Supported through a generous grant from the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Foundation of Fifth Third Bank, the MSSS, a component of the Schmidlapp STEM Scholars (Sᶾ) Program, was created to provide girls with opportunities to learn about careers in biomedical research and healthcare, and to strengthen the pipeline of racially/ethnically and/or socioeconomically underrepresented women for careers in those fields. Thirty-five (35) students from two local middle schools participated in the program and had an opportunity to meet and learn first-hand about the work of doctors, scientists and allied health professionals who work in clinical and research facilities at CCHMC.
“Early exposure to careers in biomedical research and healthcare is critical if we are to increase the representation of young women from groups historically underrepresented in these fields. Through the generosity of the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Foundation, we are able to expose these students to the vast array of career options in these fields. Waiting until high school, college, or post-graduate training is simply too late. We must build the pipeline, and that work has to start in middle school or earlier if we are to achieve optimal ethnic/racial/socio-economic diversity in higher-level positions in biomedical research/healthcare.” (Dr. Jamilah Hackworth, Sᶾ Program Director)
Representatives from many different careers participated in the MSSS including: occupational and physical therapy; radiologic technology; physicians from Adolescent Medicine, Endocrinology, and Hospital Medicine; mental health and psychology from Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology and Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics; nursing; 3D printing; cell biology and analysis, cardiology research; social work, and the Schubert Research Clinic.
A program within the Center for Clinical Translational Science and Training (CCTST), the Schubert Research Clinic (SRC) brings together all services supporting clinical trials in one location making the process of planning and conducting trials convenient for both investigator and participant. Within the clinic are four service areas: Research Nursing Core, Bionutrition, Body Composition, and a Biochemistry Laboratory. The Bionutrition Core is equipped with a metabolic research kitchen for preparing and delivering meals for feeding studies or food challenges.
Two groups from the MSSS visited the SRC metabolic kitchen for an introduction to the research-focused registered dietitian (RD) career, including required education and job responsibilities. Suzanne Summer, RD, Manager of SRC Bionutrition and Body Composition, led and facilitated these metabolic kitchen sessions. The career-focused discussion led one student to inquire more about the registered dietitian profession, asking about what Suzanne learned in school and what her job was like in a hospital setting.
Following the presentation, the students conducted an experiment analyzing the varying levels of antioxidants in fresh foods (e.g. blueberries) versus packaged, processed foods (e.g. blueberry Kool-Aid). The experiment demonstrated how foods high in antioxidants fight-off the cell damaging free radicals inside the human body, helping protect us from disease.
When reflecting on the session in the metabolic kitchen, one student noted, “it was an interactive learning experience that helped us understand the importance of health”. Another student commented, “I liked that we got to do an experiment because it actually showed us how it worked instead of just telling us.”
To learn more about the clinic, the metabolic kitchen, and other SRC services, visit the SRC website.