January 26, 2024

Wayne State’s Black Medical Association and Department of Physiology bring hands-on heart science experiences to Detroit youth

The Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology and Black Medical Association student organization joined together to host a PhUn Physiology Day at RaquetUp! Detroit, one of the student organization’s after-school partners for area children.

The event was held Nov. 29, coinciding with the Michigan Physiological Society’s Understanding Physiology (PhUn) Day, and was supported by the MPS’s Physiology Outreach Award to BMA community liaison Desiree Duncan, Class of 2026.

The event exposed middle school and high school students to careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Students learned about the physiology of the heart, and the importance of normal electrical conduction through the heart by measuring their own ECGs, and nerve-to-muscle and muscle-to-nerve interactions using a Human Spiker box. 

Associate Professor of Physiology Patrick Mueller, Ph.D., works with a student at PhUn Day.

“The medical and graduate students learned that they can have a positive impact on the next generation by exposing them to science and medicine,” said Patrick Mueller, Ph.D., who also volunteered at the event. “They see first-hand young adults who look like them, and those that don’t, interacting to help them learn things they likely didn’t know existed before. It can get them excited about science and medicine or help them decide that other careers may be more to their liking even though the STEM-type activities will help them in any career they choose.”

They were able to measure pulse pressures as well as muscle grip strength on laptops provided by Dr. Mueller’s lab.

“BMA wanted to participate in an event like PhUn Day because as an organization we want to continue to ensure our visibility in the local Detroit community,” Duncan said. “We recognize the importance of representation, exposure and support for our youth and future medical leaders.”

Duncan is mentored by Professor of Physiology Donal O’Leary, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor of Physiology Joseph Mannozzi, Ph.D.

A Wayne State University volunteer teaches children about cardiac physiology.

In addition to Duncan, medical students Amber Jackson, Curtis Mack and Tiffany McKenney and Physiology teaching assistants and graduate students Jui Gope, Fahmida Khatun, Afoluso Olayonwa and Andrew Butchko teamed up to teach children in sixth grade and up about cardiac physiology.

Duncan and Jackson, a first-year medical student who is a BMA representative and co-vice president, utilized the award to purchase educational equipment. In addition, the Department of Physiology and Conjoint Teaching Services provided equipment for the enrichment event.

The department had hosted PhUn Days at local elementary schools before the COVID-19 pandemic, and given similar presentations at local high schools.

“It was a really nice collaboration that brought PhUn Day back to the School of Medicine,” Dr. Mueller said. “The expectation is it will become an annual event at RaquetUp! as long as they will have us.”

The Department of Physiology and BMA plan to collaborate again at Brain Day on March 11, a campus-wide neuroscience outreach event held annually at the Detroit Science Center. Brain Day is open to the general public and includes students, staff and faculty from the School of Medicine and main campus. For more information, visit https://www.mi-sci.org/event/brain-day/

For more information on RaquetUp! Visit https://racquetup.org.

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