Students “Learn to Beat Cancer” at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine Events

Cleveland Metropolitan School District middle school students have been attending various “Learn to Beat Cancer” events at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to help spark their interest in science and scientific research. The final event of the year took place this past weekend on Saturday, May 5.

The three-hour events are designed and conducted by a group of medical and graduate students, and are sponsored by the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center Youth Engaged in Science grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant was awarded to Nathan A. Berger, MD, Hanna-Payne Professor of Experimental Medicine, last year to create an interest in science and scientific research for school children in underrepresented minorities.

“We brainstormed ideas and presented them to Dr. Berger and other researchers who work in cancer care,” said Sayuli Bhide, a first-year medical student who worked on one of the events teaching cell biology and cell division. “They gave us their feedback about what would be exciting and engaging for these young students.”

Based on the feedback, the medical and graduate students devised active learning approaches through games, drawing and teach back methods to ensure fun and engaging learning sessions. Jessica Asirwatham, who led one of the sessions, compared the body’s cellular composition to bricks used to build a wall. Bhide then used the “Draw It to Know It” approach to teach students to construct cells and identify different sub-cellular organelles.

To give the students an idea of what would happen if cell division goes wrong, they played the “telephone game” to illustrate distortion of message transmission as a metaphor for replication control gone awry in cancer cells.

“We were impressed by how quickly they picked it up,” said Bhide.

Asirwatham said there is a need for better education in this area, especially in science. “The best part was sitting down with them for lunch and getting to know them,” she said. “That was really rewarding for us to be able to make a connection with the kids.”

“We need to get these young students excited and engaged in cancer research, so that they know what they can do to prevent the disease, and become the next generation of cancer researchers,” said Berger, who is also director of the Center for Science, Health and Society; member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center; and professor of medicine, biochemistry, oncology and genetics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “We know that having more cancer researchers from underrepresented minority groups in the field will also help eliminate cancer disparities.”


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