Inspiring students to join the health care field

In primary school, kids learn about the common careers they can have as an adult: teacher, lawyer, doctor and others. But there are so many opportunities students aren’t introduced to until they are in middle or high school that require an understanding of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

This is an ongoing issue as we try to attract more young people to the health care industry. It’s also a partial reason for shortages in health care professionals. Since 2017, the STEAM lab has focused on sparking early interest in medical careers.

Young female students performing STEAM exercise in classroom

The lab, a part of OSF Innovation, first launched STEAM Saturday courses and weeklong summer camps giving students of all ages the chance to step into the shoes of anatomists, biomedical engineers, emergency medical technicians, nurses, medical visualization artists and surgeons. The goal is to nurture local talent and keep them in Central Illinois.

These courses led to an expansion in programming for patients served within the OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois -- undergraduates in engineering, computer science, industrial design, and medical illustration, as well as college students interested in medical school. The COVID-19 pandemic allowed us to try something new.

Going online

With everyone quarantined at home, the STEAM lab transitioned its programming to an online format. This allows young people to participate in hands-on, on-demand experiences, like dissecting a shark and building a mechanical heart pump, from the safety of their homes.

The STEAM at Home program has reached kids all over the U.S., bringing the spotlight to health care education opportunities in the Peoria region. In addition, the STEAM lab is partnering with community-based organizations to provide programming to underserved youth at no cost.

The lab is also creating an app that allows students to explore career opportunities in an immersive environment. The goal is to expose kids to all types of health care professions early, so they understand the skills they need to gain to enter this field.

What’s next

We would be remiss if we didn’t take the chance to tell you about our latest online course!

“Microscopy: Seeing is Believing” is a series of classes where students can explore invisible bits of life using a microscope that we will supply.

This first course is both live and on-demand. It will focus on the basic knowledge and study of microscopy. Kids will learn about their microscope and its individual parts, how it works and we’ll show them how to organize their home lab.

Once your child has their own microscope, they will have access to 12 more classes and activities they can complete at their own pace. Learn more about this fun opportunity on our Jump STEAM events page.

Partner with us

The STEAM lab is excited to increase its offerings of at-home content, develop digital solutions for mobile devices and look for new ways to reach disadvantaged populations.

If you are interested in learning more about the STEAM lab or participating in certain aspects of the journey, or if you want to invest or partner, contact us today.

Categories: Children's Hospital of Illinois (CHOI), Innovation, Internships, OSF Innovation, Pre-Med Immersion, STEM, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP)