Nearly 200 central Iowa boys in grades 2-6 gathered on the Des Moines University campus March 2 to gain hands-on experiences, led by DMU students, in topics ranging from anatomy and physical therapy to surgery, microbiology, nutrition and sports medicine.
Boys Reaching for Opportunities in Science, or BROS, is a new program this year at DMU. The program was created in response to statistics regarding the high likelihood of disengagement that minority males can experience early in school if they are not exposed to creative learning opportunities. According to a report issued in 2018 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 57 percent of African American medical-school graduates were men in 1986, but by 2015 that share had dropped to just 35 percent, even as the total number of black graduates had increased.
“Our campus is proud to let girls experience the wonder of the sciences and see their own potential with our longstanding GEMS program. That led us naturally to expand our community engagement with an important parallel program for boys,” said Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., DMU president and CEO. “It is exciting to see these wonderful young people become inspired by their explorations in the health sciences.”
Organized by the DMU Pediatrics Club and the Community Relations department, BROS was free to participants. Students rotated to stations on campus, led by DMU students, to experience activities including scrubbing into a sterile unit in the surgery lab; handling and learning about real human organs; making castings of their own feet; learning about nutrition and making smoothies by pedaling DMU’s smoothie bike; exploring the body with ultrasound; practicing basic first aid skills; learning how to tape ankles; participating in balance activities; peering through microscopes; and interacting with medical mannequins in a simulated emergency room, among other activities.
A component of this year’s BROS was a focus on being a doctor or health care provider instead of dreaming to be in the NFL or NBA. First-year osteopathic medical student Ruffin Tchakounte led an interactive lunch session about this topic, sharing his own story of dreaming of playing professional sports and even competing at a Division 1 college. Eventually, though, he chose medicine as he realized he could make the biggest difference in the world with this career.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have the opportunity to take part in something like BROS,” Ruffin said. “I think it is important that we are here today providing this opportunity to these boys and exposing them to field of medicine and science, to allow them to dream of what their future could look like as a doctor.
“Today is an important and impactful day for both DMU students and young boys in the community,” he added. “This event is impactful because, as medical students, we get to interact first-hand with kids in the community, and they also get to understand what it takes to become a doctor or health care professional.”