Med Students Give Kids Inside Story on Drugs, Smoking
FRANKFORT -- Medical students visiting 6th-grade classes at Hickory Creek Middle School in Frankfort last week presented compelling evidence in the case against substance abuse.
The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine students brought in preserved lungs, livers, hearts and brains packed in dry ice to demonstrate the ill effects of smoking and drug use on human organs .
The volunteer student program, Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention, operates on the premise that a good look at a set of black-spotted lungs or a scarred liver makes tobacco and alcohol decidedly unattractive.
"Drugs affect the body; that is the definition of a drug," Pritzker student Vanessa Gomez told 6th graders in Jennifer Bleker's class.
The session started out with a true-false quiz that contradicted a common misperception about drug use among youths.
"The actual truth is most kids don't use drugs," Gomez said.
"These organs are real organs donated by real people so you can learn," Pritzker student Blythe Bartos told the class.
Sixth-graders' reactions to the organs ranged from grossed out to fascinated.
"It smells," said Cameron Paulson, 11, as medical student Jenny Pogoriler compared a diseased liver to a healthy one.
Molly Hearne, 11, said seeing a real liver was "pretty cool. Usually you just see pictures."
Students in the 6th-grade classes also got to see diseased lungs up close.
"The cancer invades into the lungs," medical student Audrey Oware told students in Joe Petronio's class.
"Don't smoke" was the lesson Blake Lucas, 12, learned. "The tar like builds up and it's all black."
Gretchen Kirchner, 11, was interested in seeing "clean lungs and diseased livers, what they look like."
But the learning experience was not without side effects. "I almost lost my appetite," she said.
Aline LaRotunda, 11, is rethinking her career plans. "I was going to be a surgeon, but I'm not now."
Mike Polizzi, 12, and Ben David, 11, were leaning toward medical careers.
"It's interesting when somebody broke their arm, you find out how," Mike said. "It would be cool to operate on people," Ben said.
The 6th graders were an attentive audience. "Seeing the kids' enthusiasm" made the trip to Frankfort worthwhile for med student Dana Emery.
"It was interesting to see how much the kids knew," Emery said.
The volunteer work has personal benefits, medical students Jimmy Lu and Sandra D'Amore said.
"It's like a means to balance in your life," D'Amore said.
"It reminds us why we're here, to help people," Lu said.
The program was arranged by Debbie and Bob Wills, coordinators for the Frankfort PTA health and safety program, and serves as a follow-up to the DARE substance abuse prevention program conducted by the Frankfort Police Department for 5th graders.