PhUn week 101: New Institution, New Partners

In 2011, I attended the PhUn week workshop at Experimental Biology, where I learned about the program and some of the steps to organize the program. Since then, I have organized a PhUn week activity every year for 6 years now, including at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Physiology Understanding (PhUn) week is the American Physiological Society outreach program looking to motivate K-12 students to choose science programs as their higher education path. In the past 5 years, we have developed a series the PhUn week activities from theater-like presentations to high technology hands-on experiments showing how physiology can be integrated to the science curriculum or promoting health care careers.  These activities were performed in the Wabash Valley, IN, area and involved 50 to 100 K-12 students with 8 to 30 college-aged facilitators (undergraduate and graduate).

This year, we had to re-create PhUn week from scratch due to new institution (The University of Texas at El Paso-UTEP), new city (El Paso, TX), and new school district (El Paso Independent School District).  Because of my new position at UTEP, I did not have any direct access to undergraduate and graduate students, except for one senior PhD student and one freshman undergraduate student.  Therefore, we had to start with the basics of PhUn week 101.  First, find a community partner within the school district.  We found it at Dr. Hornedo Middle School’s 6th grade science teacher and a class of 24 children.  Second, recruit undergraduate students willing to dedicate 15 to 20 hours in training, design, and execution within 4-6 weeks.  Six students were recruited from the Bachelors in Rehabilitation Sciences at UTEP.  Third, design a production plan, which begins with a hierarchical model to evolve toward a ‘flat organization model’.  My PhD student and I trained the ‘senior’ undergraduate student in the PhUn week purpose and use of applied technology (i.e. Biopac MP40).  Then, the ‘senior’ trained the remaining 6 undergraduate students.  Once they were all trained in the use of Biopac MP40, we had 2 meetings used for brainstorming and   designing PhUn week activities.  The design of 3 hands-on activities was decided horizontally, within our flat organization, which created a great discussion environment and great new ideas! Once everything was planned, we went to Dr. Hornedo Middle School for a 3-day session.  On the first day, a general description of the program was given and data collected on a ‘reaction time’ activity.  Day 2, data collection in cardiovascular responses to exercise and changes in the electromyogram related to increased workloads.  Day 3, data analysis and review of the results.  The outcomes were successful in many levels: at the school level, children were able to collect data in different physiologic responses (i.e. electromyogram, electrocardiogram, and reaction time) that was used within their science curriculum; at the undergraduate level, students were able to reinforce their social responsibility mentoring school-aged children as role models for a successful college career.  In addition, undergraduate students were able to analyze some of the data and produce 2 abstracts for the PhUn week workshop at the upcoming Experimental Biology meeting and they registered on a UTEP undergraduate science course to explore new career paths within the STEM field; finally, at the Gurovich Lab level, we confirmed that PhUn week is not only fun but tremendously rewarding, as you can change lives and minds of younger generations.

 

Dr. Gurovich received his Physical Therapy degree from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in 1990 and worked as a clinician for more than 15 years in different fields such as sports medicine, cardiovascular rehabilitation, and human performance.  In 2006, he moved to University of Florida where he received his doctoral degree in Health and Human Performance in 2010, and a post-doctoral position at University of Florida College of Medicine, in the Department of Physiology and Functional Genomics, where he learned in vitro and in situ techniques that strengthen his translational research background.  In 2011, he attended the PhUn week workshop at Experimental Biology, where he learned about the program and some of the steps to organize the program. In 2012, he was recruited by Indiana State University to help developing the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.  Since then, Dr. Gurovich has organized a PhUn week activity every year for 6 years now, including elementary, middle, and high school students.

Dr. Gurovich is an active member of the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Physiological Society, the International Society for the Advancements in Kinanthropometry, and the American College of Sports Medicine, from which he was granted Fellow member status in 2010.

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