Alex Wade, a third year medical student in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, wanted to give at-risk high school students opportunities they may not have known about and the chance to learn that they have the skills necessary to solve complex medical and surgical problems, even when they’re not taught how up front.
To provide these opportunities, Wade founded the Medical Technologies Innovation Team. Students who participate in the program are not given a set format for solving the design problem, they choose their own groups to work in and set their own goals. This non-traditional approach to education creates an opportunity for students, who may not have been successful in traditional settings, to participate in college-level design projects.
On Sept. 18, Wade made a presentation at Kentucky State University to discuss how the learning environment provided by the program helped students who were at-risk find success in the classroom and new hope that they too can be high performers in school.
The program was inspired by similar work done by Ronald Chi, chief academic officer at Kentucky State University. Chi worked to develop The Learning Center at Linlee, a school that provides alternative education to students who did not have as much success in traditional classrooms. Linlee teaches core subjects like math, English and science, and incorporates other subjects like cooking, hydroponics, music production and robotics. This program is less structured and has the main goal of teaching students to use education to maximize their potential.
Wade incorporated many aspects of Linlee into the program he and Chi developed and added the emphasis on medicine. Students who participate in the program have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the minimally invasive surgery lab. They solve medical and surgical problems and present their findings to surgeons at UK. Additionally, participants develop relationships with professionals, which can lead to mentorships, patents, and presentations at scientific conferences.
Wade is looking forward to seeing the program continue to grow. Currently, Boone County High School and The Learning Center at Linlee participate. Wade would like to see more high schools and hope to include middle schools and elementary schools soon. He’s also looking forward to a new partnership with Biosystems Engineering, a program within the UK Colleges of Engineering and Agriculture, Food and Environment. Wade also hopes creating a student organization and inviting graduate and professional students to serve as mentors will expand the learning opportunities for participants.
Programs like these can have an exponential impact on what’s being taught. The students who participate in the program teach what they’ve learned to their friends who didn’t participate and information is able to reach more people. Wade appreciates the chance to teach future physicians and engineers and hopes students see how the skills they learn can apply to anything they are passionate about even fields outside of STEM.