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Sharing a love of the brain: Neurology residents visit Durham middle schools

Saturday, April 2, 2016
Bethea and Pineda

Middle school students throughout Durham got a virtual tour of the brain last week, learning everything from what it feels like to hold the surprisingly squishy organ in your hand to how to recognize and report a stroke. As part of Brain Awareness Week, 14 neurology residents visited six local schools to discuss the body’s most important organ, how it works, and answer students’ questions.

The 45-minute presentations, spearheaded by second-year residents Olinda Pineda, MD, and Jason Bethea, MD, focused on stroke awareness: what happens in the brain during a stroke, how strokes are treated in the hospital, and what students can do if they notice stroke symptoms in a relative or loved one.

“Stroke is a big problem in our community, both as a cause of death and a cause of disability,” Pineda said. “These children may have parents or relatives who will have a stroke one day. If they can notice a stroke when it happens and report it early, that could make a huge difference for that person’s recovery.”

Pineda and other residents taught students the acronym FAST (Face, or facial drooping,  Arm, or arm weakness, Speech, or speech problems, and Time, or prompt reporting to a hospital) to help students recognize and respond to a stroke. The residents also discussed neurocritical care, from how to read a computerized tomography scan, to how clots are either broken up with medications or physically removed via guided wires and stents, and what they enjoyed most about being neurologists.

Fourth-year resident Eric Prince, MD, taught two sessions to seventh and eighth graders at Lakewood Montessori School last week. “We often see young people in the hospital at their family member’s bedsides, but this was a chance to go talk to them in their usual environment,” he said. “I wanted to help them understand that neurology, and the problems we see, can occur in the real world, and that they can be a part of helping if such an event occurs.”

“Each class had students who were especially inquisitive,” Prince said. “They asked several questions where I honestly didn’t know the answer. But that can be a good thing, to help them understand both that we don’t yet fully understand the brain and that there’s room to help solve these questions in the future.”

Middle school students throughout Durham got a virtual tour of the brain last week, learning everything from what it feels like to hold the surprisingly squishy organ in your hand to how to recognize and report a stroke. As part of Brain Awareness Week, 14 neurology residents visited six local schools to discuss the body’s most important organ, how it works, and answer students’ questions.