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Lowcountry AHEC Pipeline Connects

Lowcountry AHEC’s Health Careers Program (HCP) and Health Profession Student (HPS) Program are collaborating on the AHEC Pipeline Connects project for the fifth year.  AHEC Pipeline Connects provides an opportunity for participating HPS students to practice working as an interprofessional team by exposing high school students in the HCP program to health professions.  Ultimately, Lowcountry AHEC expects to increase the number of HCP students accepted into health careers education programs and becoming health professionals. 

On October 25, four health professions students (two University of South Carolina Salkehatchie nursing students, one MUSC medical student and one MUSC physician assistant student) met at the Lowcountry AHEC office to conduct a session with eight HCP students. This session focused on addressing preconceived ideas the high school students may have about the participating health professions, provide information about the health professions and answer questions about them; as well as using a human body model to discuss anatomy and physiology, conduct experiments and simulations, and discuss how healthy lifestyle choices and chronic disease affect various body organs and systems.

The experiments with the human body model gave the HCP students a very hands-on learning opportunity. There were four separate stations: a lung model experiment, kidney model, kidney simulation and the digestive system. At the lung experiment station, the students constructed a lung model using a cup and balloons. The students used the lung model to simulate the expanding and contracting of the diaphragm to inflate and deflate the lungs. At the kidney model station, the students poured coffee grounds through a filter on a pre-made kidney model. This activity demonstrated how the kidneys filter the blood and keep it clean. At the kidney simulation station, water and different color beads representing the red blood cells, white blood cells, proteins, amino acids, glucose, salt, and urea were used to simulate how the kidneys work to keep the levels of substances in the blood within normal ranges. At the digestive system station, the students used a zip-lock bag, saltine crackers, and soda to simulate how the digestive system works to break down food.

Both the health professions students and the health careers program students rated this activity as a success. In an indicator of successful interprofessional collaboration, the HPS students agreed that everyone on the team contributed equally. The HCP students rated the health career exploration and human body model session highly. They were all able to identify a body part and explain what it does and stated that their favorite part of the session was the hands-on activities.

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