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Bennett students receive intro to neurosurgery through ISEP

Adnan Siddiqui, associate professor of neurosurgery, led the tour of the Jacobs Institute and UB's Clinical and Translational Research Center for Bennett High School students. Photo: Jenny Luk

By TAJUANA CERUTTI

Published May 23, 2013

“Opportunities like this are a necessity to promote the success of responsible, self-sufficient, independent, critical thinkers in the 21st century.”
Tanya Johnson, Teacher
Bennett High School

An active and inquisitive group of students from Bennett High School in Buffalo were introduced to an advanced procedure to treat neurovascular diseases during a May 17 tour of the Jacobs Institute and UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Adnan Siddiqui, associate professor in the UB Department of Neurosurgery in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, led the tour, illustrating the effective and complex surgery performed to treat intracranial aneurysms. He explained how blood flow to an aneurysm in the brain can be stopped while patients are still awake by using a technique called endovascular coil embolization. The technique involves inserting nitinol titanium coils into the body through the groin, which ultimately end up in the brain.

The students were fascinated by the fact that this minimally invasive surgery allows patients to recover so quickly that they could possibly go home the next day. And students’ interest grew during the tour as they learned about the equipment, technologies and professionals who work to improve the health and quality of life of these patients.

"[Bennett] is the second group to come through. It is important that we show the students that live here (in Western New York) that becoming a doctor is not the only option,” Siddiqui said. “There are artists, technicians, business people, engineers, nurses, undergrads and grads, as well as doctors, that make this all work,” he said.

The tour was one of many similar field trips in which students saw things they had learned actually being applied. Prior to this trip, they had visited UB’s Museum of Neuroanatomy (aka Brain Museum) and also had the chance to take part in the university’s Science Exploration Day, held every year during spring break. Back in January, they spent time learning about genomics at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

Bennett is one of 12 Buffalo Public Schools that receive resources to enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) educational experiences for middle and high school students through the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP). The UB-led program operates with support from a $9.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation and partner organizations that include the Buffalo Public Schools, Buffalo State College and the Buffalo Museum of Science.

ISEP helps provide teachers like Tanya Johnson with professional development resources, lab supplies, research experiences and funding for field trips. A passionate educator and ISEP coordinating teacher at Bennett, Johnson gets as excited as a kid in a candy store when she can bring field experiences to her students.

Johnson said that the UB tour functioned as “a wonderful opportunity as it directly relates to [their] NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), common core and STEM initiatives.” In her efforts to teach science in a relatable and applicable way, Johnson understands that learning must continue outside of the classroom.

“It hits the college and career readiness aspect right on the head,” she said. “If our students don’t see it, do it, are [not] actively involved in it, it’s not relevant to them. Opportunities like this are a necessity to promote the success of responsible, self-sufficient, independent, critical thinkers in the 21st century.”

As part of the tour, the students viewed labs and virtual equipment where simulation-based learning and practice occurs. They were able to see the simulation tank, which functioned as a sort of “Wii for the human body.” They also entered a room where 3-D effects provided an enhanced view of individual bones breaking during a fall.

Shanasia King, a sophomore at Bennett with an interest in art, was thrilled to see how art is used to help viewers understand the human body, as it plays a great role in the visual interpretation of the human anatomy in text books, videos and graphic design.

The highlight of the day, hands-down, was the opportunity to handle rat, human, rabbit and dog brains in the Toshiba Stroke & Vascular Research Center. The students seemed to enjoy the experience while learning how each brain has a different blood flow and about the different functions of each side of the brain.

“Too often, students fail to recognize the multitude of career and life paths they can choose from,” said Mike Habberfield, a UB geography doctoral student who’s assisting Johnson and other teachers at Bennett as part of the ISEP program. “By exposing them to a large variety of science-related careers, we hope to instill both an understanding of what they might pursue and a sense of attainability.”

For Alex Ticoalu, also a geography doctoral student, it’s important that the students recognize their potential. “I’m glad that ISEP has given these students the chance to see what is out there in terms of higher education and careers they can achieve,” he said.

Added Joseph A. Gardella Jr., ISEP director and John and Frances Larkin Professor of Chemistry at UB: “We hope that the students will take away the real opportunities for their future from field trips like those at UBNS (UB Department of Neurosurgery).”

Siddiqui hopes to make the tours a regular part of an ongoing program to expose students to the advances being made in science here in Buffalo. “We are using the tours as a way to open the eyes of students to something that is happening right here. For students that are motivated and want to follow up, they can contact us to find out how they can participate in a summer internship program,” he said.

For more information about how students can receive a tour and inquire about internship and additional learning opportunities, visit the UB Neurosurgery website.

For more information about ISEP and the STEM engagement taking place with students from the 12 Buffalo Public Schools, visit the ISEP website.