Getting kids interested in subjects outside of Fortnite and vaping is no easy feat, but Executive Director Julie Joyal and the folks behind the MEDscience program at Harvard Medical School may have cracked the code.
Joyal, a former ICU nurse at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who has a master’s in education from Harvard, was inspired to join the nonprofit initiative following a chance encounter with the program’s co-founder, Nancy Oriol. After seeing the work at MEDscience firsthand, Joyal knew she was onto something special: “[It offers] high-quality programing to kids who could normally not afford this,” she says. For more than a decade, the program has inspired high school students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through an innovative, hands-on curriculum.
Beginning in June, 190 young people will take part in MEDscience’s weeklong summer programs, which teach students about human biology through emergency-room simulations that utilize a computer-controlled mannequin that mimics symptoms of certain diseases. “They are coming and solving a case like a doctor does,” says Joyal. MEDscience also runs 12-week courses throughout the year that are integrated into science classes at 30 Boston-area high schools.
Thanks to the new addition of another simulation lab, Joyal aims to double the number of students for the summer and semester programs next year. “Our curriculum teaches critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills,” Joyal says. “Those are the skills employers and universities want.”