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Parkland Students Benefit From SLUHN Biomedical Symposium
April 04, 2024

Daniel Heckman, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with St. Luke's Orthopedic Care, leads Parkland students on the dissection of a cadaver knee.

Aneri McGalla’s eyes opened wide as she excitedly talked about the Parkland School District Biomedical Symposium for Students sponsored by St. Luke’s University Health Network in early April.

Not only did she get to witness the dissection of a cadaver knee, but she and more than 250 Parkland students who elect to take the nationally renowned Project Lead The Way curriculum offered at Parkland High School were able to receive hands-on training in disciplines like suturing, hands-only CPR, wound care and so much more.

“We got to learn so many new things and see areas of health care we had never thought of,” said Aneri, a sophomore at Parkland and a second-year student in the PLTW Biomedical Science curriculum.

More than 60 St. Luke's personnel, including athletic trainers, physicians, orthopedic surgeons, physician assistants, physical therapists, nurses and EMS teams turned out to provide a full day’s educational program. This is the third straight year since the COVID-19 pandemic that St. Luke’s has sponsored the event.

“This was the first time I got to see a knee dissection,” said sophomore Colin Winfield, who witnessed the insides of a knee thanks to the talents of orthopedic surgeon Daniel Heckman, MD, of St. Luke’s Orthopedic Care.

“It was really interesting, and he explained it so well,” Colin said. “It was fun. We were able to explore what different things looked like, like the ligaments and muscles, and how they connected and worked.”

“The students are always interested to be in the presence of a cadaver specimen and to actually see, firsthand, the inside of the human body,” explained Aaron Boggs MA, LAT, ATC, Program Manager of the West Market, St. Luke’s Sports Medicine. “These students are obviously extremely dedicated to the sciences. We want to stoke their interests as they relate to their interests in attending medical school or pursuing a career in the medical field. We want this event, and others like it, to make a big impact on their futures.”

Laura Kowalski, a biology teacher at Parkland who heads up the PLTW biomedical science program at the school, was thrilled with the student engagement.

“This is such a unique opportunity, and we are so grateful to St. Luke’s for the experiences they are providing,” she said. “Whatever level these students are on, they are getting an experience like no other. There are so many different healthcare fields represented here. Whether our students are first level or fourth level, each one gains a unique experience and gets to explore career pathways.”

Kowalski said that the first- and third-level students experienced one set of the demonstrations and hands-on training, while the second- and fourth-level students experienced another set, which ensured that all students involved had different experiences from the previous years. There were several new events added to this year: Surgical Demonstration, Ultrasound, EKG and Heart Sounds, and Wound Care.

“St. Luke’s puts on an incredible program and these kids are just blown away,” Kowalski said. “It’s life changing. This is the culmination of everything the students have worked on for the entire school year. They are sponges throughout the entire day and make so many connections that can lead them into their futures.”

“Many of these students represent the future of surgical and rehabilitative medicine, so it’s important for them to have this kind of early exposure,” said Dr. Heckman. “By the time they are practicing in the field, the technology and surgical instruments could be quite different, but the anatomy and physiology of the human body will be the same.”

Throughout the year, the PLTW students are involved in rigorous, hands-on, biomedical course curriculum including content and activities that immerse them in medical scenarios and situations, like dissections of a fetal pig, and the heart, brain, kidney and eye of other organisms.

St. Luke’s provided sessions in:

· Dissection
· Careers
· Splinting
· Ambulance
· Patient Experience
· Sim Truck (Mobile Simulation Lab)
· Stop the Bleed
· Injections
· Opioids
· Hands Only CPR
· Ultrasound / Radiology
· EKG / Heart Sounds
· Wound Care
· Physical Therapy
· Suturing
· Surgical Demo