DMU Anatomy Ambassadors “open a door to the health sciences community”

On a recent evening at Heritage Elementary School in Ankeny, IA, some students twittered nervously, others hung back and yet others charged forward into the classroom where a group of DMU students stood ready to welcome them. It was STEAM Night at the school – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics – and the DMU Anatomy Ambassadors were eager for Heritage students to gain hands-on learning with the real human organs and bones they’d brought.

DMU Anatomy Ambassadors prepare to “wow” students at Heritage Elementary School. From left: Lauren Hastings, Emiko Hasegawa, Robyn Hjalmquist, Anna Geiger, Rebecca Taylor, Maddie Johnson, Talon Hoefer and anatomy coordinator Ariel Gubatina.

“It was the first room that many [students] gravitated to,” says fourth-grade teacher Janine Murphy. “There were also students that were a little nervous about going in to see the organs. The DMU students were very inviting and encouraged them to come in. When in there, they were amazed at how the organs looked and became very interested. The DMU students did an excellent job explaining to students the parts and purposes.”

The University’s Anatomy Ambassadors Program is an organization open to all DMU students who enjoy interacting with the community by giving on- and off-campus demonstrations to youth in elementary school through undergraduate school.

“I chose to join Anatomy Ambassadors because I’ve always loved anatomy and interacting with kids. I was really excited to be able to combine the two,” says Anna Geiger, the organization’s secretary/treasurer who is pursuing dual degrees in DMU’s doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) and master of science in anatomy (M.S.A.) programs. “The highlight for me was definitely the students’ and parents’ faces when I told them I was holding a heart and that’s what they would be learning about. I was also surprised at how much the younger students knew about anatomy and how interested they were in seeing the organs we brought. It was so fun to see how excited they got about anatomy.”

Anatomy Ambassadors President Talon Hoefer, an M.S.A. student, also enjoyed seeing “faces lit up with excitement and curiosity” during the Heritage event. “There is no better feeling than knowing that you have influenced a student’s education by opening a door to the health sciences community for them,” he says.

Heritage students and parents alike were fascinated to learn about human organs and their functions.

Tara Erredge, the Ankeny extended learning program teacher for Heritage and Crocker Elementary schools, says the DMU students likely accomplished that. “I overheard several conversations about how that room cemented a student’s interest in entering the medical field,” she says. “The energy and enthusiasm for the topic were obvious as you watched the expressions on the faces of the children and adults alike. As our guest teachers manipulated the organs to show how they worked, the students were amazed!”

Maddie Johnson, a D.O. student and vice president of the Anatomy Ambassadors, says exposing kids to science, technology, engineering and mathematics is important for fostering their passion for the sciences. She enjoys sharing her passion for anatomy with others no matter their age.

“My favorite part of the Heritage event was not only piquing the interests of students but also the parents,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how old you are – there is always room for curiosity and learning. Also, you could see how fascinated everyone was with realizing that we had real cadaver organs.”

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