Last week I spent an enjoyable morning in the anatomy lab of the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. Professor John Bertram and his staff of instructors today hosted a couple of high school classes and introduced them to the subject of human anatomy. I was invited by John to observe the session since the visiting class in the morning was from Robert Thirsk High School. We all put on gloves and gowned up to participate in an amazing hands-on learning experience.
Following an introduction to the organs and major anatomical features of several full cadavers, the high school students divided into smaller groups to explore on their own. Smaller specimens of interest (e.g. brain, heart, lungs of a smoker and non-smoker) were also provided for closer examination. There was even a specimen of ‘situs inversus’ – a torso and abdomen with the heart, liver, spleen and other organs congenitally transposed (i.e. flip-flopped) and lying on the opposite side of the body from the usual – an uncommon condition.
I circulated around the lab and chatted informally with the students. I was pleased to learn that several of them are considering health sciences in their post-secondary plans. And although it has been many years since I was in medical school, I found that I was still able to recognize many anatomical structures and answer their questions.
For more than a decade, Professor Bertram and his dedicated staff have been inviting southern Alberta high school classes into their anatomy lab. They do this out of a passion for teaching and on a volunteer basis. Today’s visiting classes were the last of a group of about a dozen schools that have visited the lab this year over the last two weeks.
The Cumming School of Medicine obviously takes the ‘Fully Integrate the University with the Community’ foundational commitment to heart. While Cumming School embraces the Eyes High vision and strategy, I suspect that John and his staff conduct these sessions simply for the opportunity to teach in an environment of raw enthusiasm. And I suspect that over the years these sessions have resulted in career-defining moments for a number of students.
I am incredibly proud of my university that serves the secondary school needs of this city and region. It is a source of pride and purpose.