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Photo Essay

Sketch of School Life: Inspiring medical career dreams

L.A. medical center brings specialized program to Title I school
  • Dr. Niloufar Tehrani discusses the cranium and the location of the bones on Walden, the class skeleton. (Photo: Marcia Reed)
  • Dr. Tehrani shows students how to build a DNA chain. (Photo: Marcia Reed)
  • A 186th Street School student studies pathology slides of a cell, below right, under a microscope. (Photo: Marcia Reed)
  • Kids have fun with the skull of Walden, the name given to the class skeleton. (Photo: Marcia Reed)

As a Title 1 school, LAUSD’s 186th Street School jumped at a chance to expose primarily low-income students to the possibilities of a medical science career.

Physicians from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center’s pediatrics department approached the school in 2015 asking if they want to use the center’s science enrichment curriculum for fifth-graders in the gifted and talented programs.

Dr. Niloufar Tehrani, a Harbor-UCLA Medical Center physician who organizes the mini-medical magnet program’s curriculum, brings 30 volunteer pediatric residents to teach 40 students biweekly for two-hour modules during the school year, says 186th Street Principal Marcia Reed.

In the first of 15 human anatomy and health safety modules, students are introduced to the respiratory and circulatory systems; Lessons include viewing microscope slides of heart and lung tissue, and measuring each other’s respiratory and heart rates with stethoscopes.

Students also build a model of the circulatory system from household items, such as sugar sprinkles to mimic platelets, Red Hots candies for red blood cells, maple syrup for plasma, and marshmallows for other blood products, Tehrani says.

At the end of the year, students visit the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where they observe medical rotations and watch technicians in hematology, pathology and microbiology use an ultrasound machine, draw blood and administer CPR.

Funding for the center’s initiative—which has spread to several other LAUSD schools—came from LA Biomed, a research institute. A $50,000 Toyota community award paid for the program’s initial supplies and books.