High School Students Learn About Health Care Careers from Iowa LEND Trainees

February 12, 2015

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education programs are for students in grades K-12 and according to STEM Connector data, females are about 25% less likely to be interested in STEM fields than males. University of Iowa Health Care (UIHC) staff and Iowa LEND Trainees are trying to change that!

UIHC STEM activities attracted approximately 2,695 students during FY09 but in FY14, the number of students increased to 13,552 and 64% of those students were female.

Recently, Iowa LEND trainees met with two groups of high school students from rural Iowa schools, and talked with them about the careers of physical therapy and speech-language pathology. The Speech trainees spoke about how their work serves to help people communicate throughout daily activities, and how the communication process can be interrupted by health issues and disabilities. The STEM students were able to view human larynges and brains in order to learn how speech and language are understood and produced. In addition, the STEM students got a chance to use a high-tech augmentative and alternative communication speech-generating device, the Tobii-I15, and learned what it is like to communicate using their eyes while navigating pages of buttons. Through the use of this device, students were able to see how access to meaningful communication is possible for those individuals who may not have speech.

LEND Physical Therapy trainees explained how they treat the body as a whole, focusing not on the person's impairment, but directing their efforts toward the interplay between numerous systems in the body. The high school students participated in "experiments" where they were asked to balance on a single limb while integrating information from other systems. When one of the systems was "removed," the students could begin to understand how diminishing eyesight might affect balance in an older person, or how a person might feel after a stroke. The trainees emphasized that when even one of the body's systems is damaged, physical therapists are capable of treating the area of deficit while helping the individual integrate the information from different systems.

Iowa LEND trainees will meet with a new group of STEM students again in March and will encourage these students to consider careers in healthcare, working with individuals with disabilities and their families.