The Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) schools of Dentistry Nursing, Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, and Optometry offer a very educational summer program that informs students about all health science career pathways. I attended the camp in summer of 2019 and can honestly say it was a life changing experience. We did educational hands-on activities, like going to the university’s cadaver lab to learn about the human body and filling in cavities to learn about dental restoration. The human body is the extraordinary machine that we learned about in middle school biology. As we transitioned into high school we continued to learn more and more through books, diagrams, and charts. At the IUPUI summer program, I had the privilege to learn even more through real life cadavers. This was a very monumental moment for me as a pre-medical student. I gained a better understanding of what it means to be an organ donor and a new respect for life.
We learned how to detect tumor formations, enlarged organs, and past surgical procedures by examining the cadavers organs. A tumor, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, is an abnormal swelling within the body, but the word most often refers to a mass of cancer cells. Looking for tumor formations can be tricky, being that there are many of all kinds of shapes and sizes. During the program we learned about rare cancerous brain tumors like astrocytomas, and common causes of death like coronary artery disease. Astrocytomas are brain and spinal tumors that begin forming in cells called astrocytes which support nerve cells. Astrocytomas that occur in the brain can cause seizures, headaches and nausea. In addition to human anatomy, we headed to the school of dentistry and learned a variety of things including dental restoration. Dental restoration means dental filling and it is often performed when there are minor fractures or decay in the teeth. The procedure time varies between patients but on average it is set to take about an hour if there are no complications. There are a few types of fillings, for instance Amalgam Fillings, Composite Fillings, Metals, Ceramic, and Glass Ionomer fillings. During the program we learned about two out of the five, including Composite Fillings and Amalgam Fillings. Amalgam Fillings or metal fillings, are placed when there is a significant amount of tooth decay that needs to be cleaned and freshly filled. However, composite fillings are made with materials that match your tooth color which is different from amalgam fillings that are made with only metals.
Aside from acquiring knowledge on physical parts of the human body, we learned about mental health issues and how to manage them in our daily life. After our long pedagogic days, we would head to lunch and shortly after would all sit in a quiet dark room and meditate. The IUPUI faculty purposefully puts health and wellness above all especially now during COVID-19 isolation, because they know how crucial it is during these stressful times. After meditating, we would do a little yoga while the instructor read from a book about healthy habits. We would continuously practice acceptance and commitment therapy by accepting our emotions and what we can and can’t control. Acceptance and commitment therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that involves aspects of behavior change, mindfulness, and acceptance to address mental and physical problems. One of the therapeutic activities we practiced was bringing our attention to our breathing, and feeling the sensations of our breath without trying to manipulate it. We proceeded by writing down our emotions and what it felt like to be completely stress free for two minutes. After getting a clear state of mind, we would write down on that same piece of paper, ten things that were valuable to us. There were no wrong answers in this exercise but most students put down work, school, friends, family, health and/or nature as important things. The last step of the activity was to rate them from one to ten on importance and you could have multiple with the same rating. The purpose of this activity was to know that life is not just black and white, multiple things can be highly important and it's hard to juggle everything at once. This exercise can help clarify what is important and needs to be prioritized in your life.
To sum up, this was a great opportunity to really expand my knowledge that I am glad I took advantage of, and I promise you will feel the same way if you join this upcoming summer. The program allows you to gain insight into many health specialties so you can narrow down your choice on what health career you want to pursue. If you are looking for a summer camp that is out of the ordinary, helps you further enhance your knowledge on your career of choice, and one that makes you feel a part of something greater, I highly recommend the Breaking the Myths of Health Professions Summer Camp at IUPUI.