Hello, my name is Jess. I’m a graduating medical student from Tufts University School of Medicine. I’m writing from Rapid City as I finish the final preparations for a month of teaching on Pine Ridge. I will be working with 5th-8th grade students at both the Red Cloud Indian school (RCIS) and Our Lady of Lourdes (OLL) elementary school. I was looking for an opportunity to return to Pine Ridge and found the Asniya program through Tufts’ community service learning course. It’s been over ten years since my first visit to the reservation during college and I’m looking forward to seeing the changes.
RCIS and OLL are excited to participate in our program. We’re working to build a standing health science curriculum to be integrated yearly into science and health classes for 5th-8th graders. Wonderful teachers at both institutions have provided feedback on grade appropriate activities and the interests of their students. Each lesson in our course is designed to be interactive, cover a health science topic and give students an opportunity to explore the methods of learning commonly encountered in healthcare training. We will be identifying how pathogens are transmitted in our environment, learn about our cardiovascular systems and discuss the phenomenal machine that is our brain. Students will have hands on laboratories with animal hearts and brains. They will also learn the importance of vial signs and how to use stethoscopes, thermometers and blood pressure cuffs in a physical exam.
Additionally, during this month we’ll be working to create videos and profiles of native healthcare providers to discuss with students. Many of these providers have graduated from RCIS or OLL. We hope to start connecting students to local mentors that can continue to foster their passions through the most formative years.
I had never seen such excitement in the expressions of children until the day we reviewed cardiac anatomy on real buffalo hearts. My excitement throughout the Asniya course was derived from the insightful questions and curiosity of these middle school students; it was beyond my expectations. Throughout our month together, middle school students at the Red Cloud Indian School and Our Lady of Lourdes fifth-through-eighth grade classes were motivated and inquisitive.
During our first class sessions, I asked the students what they were interested in learning. I received a variety of requests ranging from how pimples form to the heritability of schizophrenia. I had two goals for our time together: the first was for students to understand how healthcare professionals think and learn. The second was to familiarize students with a variety of careers in healthcare.
At the conclusion of our course, we conducted a survey of all participating students and found about 35% were considering healthcare careers. Additionally, more than 50% of students were interested in having a mentor in healthcare and learning more about the topic. The vast majority of the students voiced that they enjoyed the material, hands on laboratories, and even...the homework. Research has shown that introducing children early to healthcare careers is an important factor in the decision to enter a health profession. Many students may decide later on to pursue these professions, but most importantly, I hope all students retain their passion and excitement for learning.
Having visited the Pine Ridge reservation for the first time ten years ago, I was impressed by the changes on the reservation during my trip. I had the opportunity to work with the educators and community leaders who are dedicated to protecting Lakota culture and promoting Lakota health. Teachers at both Red Cloud and Our Lady of Lourdes will be joining our curriculum committee to develop Asniya materials for future interns, as well as design health sequences to span the middle school years. I’m looking forward to working with these inspiring and motivated educators to bring lasting opportunities to students across Pine Ridge.