Evening of Medicine invites students to explore medical profession


Jessica Wang

Upper School biology teacher Matthew Harley gestures at his presentation on the anatomy of a heart. At the Evening of Medicine, he procured hearts of various sizes for the attendees to hold and examine.

by Jessica Wang, Alison Yang, and Claire Zhao

Around 50 students attended the Evening of Medicine, hosted by Medical Club in Nichols on Nov. 4 from 6:30 to 9 p.m, where two speakers presented about their research and students participated in hands-on activities, of which included a pig heart dissection and a surgery workshop. 

The event included two guest speakers and three interactive workshops, providing students with the opportunity to learn more about various aspects of medical fields such as neurosurgery, anatomy, laparoscopy and bariatric surgery. Medical Club Co-President Johnathan Mo (12) reflects on the club’s process with recruiting mentors who were willing to speak at the event.

“Medical Club has a mentorship program, so our first step in running the Evening of Medicine was to contact all the mentors, just to see who was interested,” Johnathan said. “Even though we had a few last-minute changes to the lineup, I think we were still able to host what was hopefully a good event.”

First, students gathered in the Nichols Auditorium for Stanford University neurosurgery professor Dr. Peter Tass’s presentation on treating Parkinson’s disease with a vibrating glove. Dr. Tass celebrated the success of the treatment by showing videos of his own patients’ effective recoveries from the disease-caused tremors. Currently in his fourth year as a Medical Club mentor, he stressed the importance of intersectionality within various STEM fields.

“It’s important to learn as much math and physics as possible for medicine,” Dr. Tass said. “Physics is not only a tool to help develop tools like the X-ray but also a way to approach the medical field as more of a systems theory. [In doing so,] we’ll be able to come up with more intelligent and less aggressive treatments going forward.”

Medical Club member Melody Yin (10) expresses her admiration for Dr. Tass and his valuable research. Having done her own research on concussions, she finds his work inspiring and hopes to one day experience the same level of success. 

“I’ve always been really interested in STEM and its applications towards other people,” Melody said. “It was especially inspiring to see someone, especially from a place so close to home, working so hard and having some really interesting results with his patients, and I’m hopeful to see how his research might affect people suffering from Parkinson’s in the future.”

Students participate in a laparoscopic surgery workshop at the Evening of Medicine on Nov. 4. Students tried their hand at laparoscopic surgery by playing with different surgical tools like staplers and testing their skills with a surgical simulation. (Claire Zhao)

After the speaker event, attendees separated into groups to participate in three rotating workshops. The medical illustration workshop, hosted by Medical Club member Anika Mantripragada (11) in upper school physics teacher Lisa Radice’s room, focused on two of Anika’s interests: art and medicine. Students followed her instructions and learned how to draw an anatomically correct human skull.

Upper school biology teacher Dr. Matthew Harley hosted the heart dissection workshop in his own room. After explaining the parts and functions of a human heart, Dr. Harley allowed students to probe and observe freshly dissected pig hearts that he had purchased from Lion Market. 

“My favorite activity was the dissection because not everyone can say that they held a pig heart in their hands,” club member Kimi Yashar (9) said. “[Dr. Harley] gave everyone pig hearts from across the street, so they were still fresh and juicy. He showed us a bunch of the main arteries and muscles in the heart and we were even able to stick a probe through the blood vessels.”

Stanford Medicine Children’s Health general surgeon Dr. Janey Pratt, who specializes in robotic hernia repair, hosted the laparoscopic surgery workshop in upper school computer science teacher Susan King’s room. Students tried their hand at laparoscopic surgery by playing with different surgical tools like staplers and testing their skills with a surgical simulation. 

Evening of Medicine attendee Kaitlyn Su (10) enjoyed the various workshops provided because they allowed her to step into the shoes of a doctor.

“I think the workshops were really interesting; I got to explore some parts of medicine I didn’t know existed,” Kaitlyn said. “The heart [dissection] workshop was really hands-on since we got to actually see what a real heart looks like. But the laparoscopic surgery one was also really cool since we got to see the tools that doctors use for surgery and actually get to try it out ourselves.”

After the rotations, Dr. Pratt gave a presentation in the Nichols Auditorium about childhood obesity and its possible treatments, emphasizing the harms of the stigma surrounding obesity. Dr. Pratt shared her experience in the medical field and how her view of bariatric surgery changed from disdain to genuine appreciation when she was assigned to it.

“[Childhood obesity] is one of the most misunderstood diseases that we have and is surrounded by a tremendous amount of bias and presence,” Dr. Pratt said. “I’ve spent a lot of time educating families about it and about the use of surgery for treatment. We’re always going to have biases because we grow up in a society with biases, and you just have to keep an open mind and be willing to look at yourself.”