Starting early: Inspiring the next generation of doctors and citizens

Written by Lauren Klein, BS candidate at University of Notre Dame and participant in the Institute for Public Health 2019 Summer Research ProgramPublic & Global Health Track

The Institute Public Health Summer Research Program – Public and Global Health track participants visited Little Medical School (LMS), an organization seeking to inspire and educate younger children about health and the medical profession. LMS has adopted a flexible model comprised of programs and courses varying in curriculum and number of classes; it franchises to different countries and seeks to create “edu-tainment” curriculum to get kids interested in and having fun with science.

This experience made me think about who has access to the medical profession and how programs such as this could change that. LMS seeks to educate in underserved communities, attempting to introduce children to the medical profession. Programs such as this, when extended to children with working class parents, or especially those children generally excluded from the medical profession on the basis of factors such as race and gender, may have the capacity to inspire kids to entertain the possibility of a medical profession. However, LMS works with acquired funds, which limits its ability to go into underserved areas. Therefore, this program must make a conscious effort to extend its programming to these areas; otherwise, it risks entrenching a system in which wealthier students, higher in the hegemonic order, are further encouraged to pursue a medical profession, while others lag in enthusiasm about medical careers and health knowledge.

At Little Medical School, young students learn many topics related to health, wellness, and biological processes in courses that seek to educate in a fun way.

Another interesting topic brought up regarded franchising and adapting content to different cultures. Because different cultures often have different perspectives about medicine and health, and certain health issues are more prevalent and must be addressed in certain areas, it is important that the material be adaptable. Franchising allows for some of this adaptation. It is important that the content be adaptable to different cultures and countries for the curriculum to best serve the students while maintaining cultural diversity.

Lastly, this program is valuable because students, regardless of developing an interest in medicine, will gain valuable life knowledge. A general enthusiasm about learning and science can be developed through the entertaining curriculum, positive learning experience and kids can develop a love of learning that will broadly serve them throughout life. Also, students learn valuable health lessons about immunity, hygiene, and illness which can influence their behaviors and lead to overall healthy lifestyles. Thereby, this program benefits students, whether or not they choose to pursue a medical profession in the future.

This experience emphasized for me the importance of making education accessible, especially to those who are under resourced or discouraged because of a factor such as race or gender. Making education enjoyable is also crucial; when kids have fun, they are likely to learn more and be more willing to apply what they are learning to their lives. Overall, this experience stressed to me the importance of making learning fun and expanding enjoyment of learning to all children, not just to those who would, already, have access to better educational resources.

See photos from the visit to Little Medical School