Members write about their own experiences in STEMx
By Sophia Nesamoney
“Stents”, “polyps”, and “euthanization” were words that I had heard before, but never really understood before this semester. During the Youth Med branch of STEMx, we heard from inspiring doctors, pathologists, and even our peers who gave us a taste of the exciting world of medicine that is blossoming to change healthcare today.
Our first speaker was a vascular surgeon who works with some of the sickest patients in the hospital. He taught us about fatal diseases that occur in the veins such as when plaque builds up and eventually shoots into the brain. He described to us the detrimental effects of these diseases, telling us that his patients are usually in very dire need of immediate care and sometimes are on the threshold of death. He then told us how those potentially fatal problems can be treated using the lifesaving technology of stents, which are very small cylindrical objects made of thin wire used to hold open a passageway in the body. It was eye-opening for me to see such a small device that could have such a large impact on a human’s life, which helped me to realize how far medicine has progressed within the last few decades.
After hearing about stents, we got to hear from a pathologist who detects tumors from samples of internal body parts, such as the colon. We got to assess our “colon” sample in the same way that she does in her lab, sleuthing for clues such as polyps to aid us in our diagnosis. We began the activity using a knife to cut through the flesh of our colon (which was really a tube of pasta), opening it up to uncover the small growths or polyps (which were actually pomegranate seeds) formed in the walls of the unhealthy part of the colon. We learned how important it was to cut through the side that seemed healthier (which is usually the side that is not bulging or swollen), because otherwise you may damage the unhealthy tissue and will not be able to properly analyze it. This hands-on experience helped me to realize the complexity as well as the difficulty of diagnosing a patient, because one wrong move while inspecting the sample could cause you to come to the wrong conclusion.
Lastly, my favorite activity was our ethical debate on doctor-assisted suicide. We got the chance to discuss controversial topics such as euthanasia and assisted suicide for people with chronic disabilities and even got to read powerful stories from people living with these terminal conditions, as well as their process of contemplation between life and death. It was transformative to read these diary-style stories because I got the chance to put myself in the shoes of the patient and understand the the tough battle between their personal values and the pain that came with living each day. Moreover, I especially loved engaging in our conversation because I got the chance to ponder questions such as “Should children really have a choice whether or not to end their lives, or should it be up to their parents?” and “Should people with incurable mental disabilities be given the choice to end their lives when their brains are not fully functional?”, which helped me to think about where my values stand and how I would feel as a parent or patient in one of these situations.
Through participating in the thought-provoking ethics discussion, hearing from eye-opening speakers, and getting the chance to diagnose colon cancer, I have a newfound appreciation of the unique and exciting experiences we have had in STEMx this semester and cannot wait to explore the incredible activities that next semester has to offer.
By Johanna Liaw
In STEMx, I have been involved in “building bridges”, biospheres, cow eye dissection, meeting a vascular surgeon, and making light-up Christmas cards. In each of these, I feel I have learned to work better as a team in new environments and with new information. For example, in “building bridges” and the cow eye dissection, there were a few difficult situations that as a team, my partner and I had to overcome. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about people’s jobs and their journey to achieve those jobs. It was especially interesting to be able to work on more hands on activities such as the biospheres, cow eye dissection, and Christmas cards because I feel that my learning is much more in depth, rather than simply reading or discussing. Overall, most, if not all of the activities I was involved in were hands-on learning and it really helped me explore new subjects in a way that would not have been possible on my own. I can't wait to continue learning and challenging myself in STEMx in the future.