About five years ago, Dr. Tiffany Willard, a trauma surgeon with UCHealth Memorial Hospital, was asked to give a presentation to her niece’s 5th grade class at Discovery Canyon Campus Elementary School. Area schools have a human body series for 5th-graders that teaches them about the systems of the body.
Dr. Willard takes the foundation the kids have learned about the body systems, and then takes it a step further. “They are not taught how the systems interact with each other; (in the presentation) we get into how everything we do on a daily basis affects the entire body, not just one system, but how those systems affect one another and we also talk about how certain choices can affect your body. We tell our kids every day, hopefully, not to use drugs and alcohol, don't drink and drive, but we never say why we just say ‘it's bad for you.’”
These days, Willard’s presentation has evolved into a real-life medical experience for 5th-graders, complete with scrubs and masks, medical mannequins, pig body parts to operate on and fake blood. It’s basically a day in the life of a trauma surgeon -- experience that also aims to teach kids life lessons in a hands-on way.
Through a simulated trauma, Dr. Willard aims to bring home an important life lesson of choices and consequences. "My hope is to teach these kids if they use alcohol and they drive or they drink and make a bad choice what can happen in terms of the trauma world."
The kids are called up one by one with the title of doctor, dressed in scrubs and told to prepare for a trauma. "We hope that by actually having them do chest compressions, and giving patients oxygen and starting an IV and seeing the blood and the guts that they retain more and they are more engaged and they will never forget. We have been doing this for four or five years now, and I have 8th-graders that still remember every single bit of what we did and that is what I am hoping for -- that these kids will hold onto what they feel and experience."
Besides learning first-hand the injuries they could inflict on their own bodies and what doctors have to do to help them and heal them, some kids learn a new career choice, says Dr. Willard.
"It's funny because I ask at the beginning, ‘who wants to be a surgeon?’ and there is usually one or two, and by the end there usually 10 or 12."