The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has received a $1.27 million grant to teach students of the Little Rock School District about careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and cardiovascular health using handheld ultrasound devices and other interactive technology.
On Wednesday (Sept. 26), UAMS announced the five-year Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) was given by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The program is a partnership between UAMS and the Little Rock School District. UAMS faculty will bring programs to ninth-grade physical science classes in the school district, and UAMS will host week-long summer camps each year of the grant. Some students will be invited to return to the camps and to become camp staff.
Project goals are to teach students about STEM and research the most effective ways to inspire students to pursue STEM careers.
“UAMS’ mission as the state’s only health sciences university expands beyond its walls and out into the community,” said Christopher Westfall, interim dean of the College of Medicine. “Educational outreach is needed in a state like Arkansas, where we are challenged by racial, ethnic and socioeconomic health disparities, as well as growing shortages of healthcare professionals. We must develop new and innovative methods for cultivating a larger, more diverse, and culturally competent healthcare workforce.”
The program, called ArkanSONO, will be led by Kevin Phelan, co-director of the Division of Clinical Anatomy at the UAMS College of Medicine. In the high school science classrooms, UAMS faculty will use medical-grade handheld ultrasound devices to teach the physics of sounds, how ultrasounds works and how they’re used in STEM fields, such as medicine, biomedical research and industry.
“It’s a novel approach that has a bit of a ‘wow’ factor with students,” Phelan said. “They get to see blood vessels expanding or contracting in real time, or see tendons moving under the skin. We all had a favorite teacher, or can think back to an exciting educational experience that sparked our interest and propelled us to our futures. We’re hoping that for some of these students, this can be that experience for them.”
In spring 2017, Phelan completed a pilot study at four of the five high schools in the district.
“Teachers said the students were talking about it for weeks afterward,” Phelan said. “We’re excited about seeing what additional interest in STEM we can generate by having some of these students attend summer camps at UAMS, where they build on what they learn in the classroom.”
Mike Poore, superintendent of the Little Rock School District, said the school district is grateful to UAMS for the investment into its students and the partnership. “Our students need these types of hands-on, relevant experiences to learn about STEM and associated careers. It’s clear that most of the jobs of the future will require science and math, so exposure to STEM education today will prepare our students to become the next generation of great innovators.”
This is the fourth time UAMS has earned the SEPA funding.