5th Graders Learn About Careers in Health Care at Teddy Bear Clinic

Last week, El Paso fifth graders got a glimpse of what it’s like to be a health care provider — by taking care of teddy bears.

At the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) Teddy Bear Clinic, nearly 1,350 elementary school students got to treat teddy bears as pretend patients. The event, which drew in kids from 20 schools in the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD), helps spark interest in health care careers at a young age.

TTUHSC El Paso's Teddy Bear Clinic gives elementary school students a chance to learn about medicine by treating teddy bear patients.

TTUHSC El Paso’s Teddy Bear Clinic gives elementary school students a chance to learn about medicine by treating teddy bears as patients.

“We try to plant a seed in these students at an early age so that they can eventually enter the health care field,” said Daniel Camacho, director of the TTUHSC El Paso Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and event organizer. “There is a real health care provider shortage in El Paso and the surrounding region, and with this event, we hope to interest more of our talented youth in choosing a health care career.”

At the event, the students also heard a short talk from Herb Janssen, Ph.D., a TTUHSC El Paso professor of physiology before taking their teddy bears through a variety of medical booths, including nursing and vital signs, and physician’s, radiology, and counseling stations. The highlight of the clinic was a walk-through brain exhibit, a giant 18 x 14-foot-long inflatable brain that gives students an interactive opportunity to learn about brain structures and functions, and to observe examples of brain trauma and disease. The exhibit was made possible by Medical Inflatables, a private Texas corporation that generously donated the inflatable for the event.

TTUHSC El Paso medical students helped run the stations, teaching the children about the various injuries or illnesses their bears may have. The medical students used real medical equipment to demonstrate how a doctor or nurse would handle the case in real life.
Elementary students explore a giant inflatable brain to learn about brain structures and functions, and observe examples of brain trauma and disease.

Elementary students explore a giant inflatable brain to learn about brain structures and functions, and observe examples of brain trauma and disease.

“Children typically have anxiety about going to see a doctor, but this teddy bear approach will hopefully help make them more comfortable with the thought of going,” Camacho added.

The AHEC provides education and development services to kindergarten through college-age students throughout the year to help set the foundation for the future of health care in West Texas. Last week’s Teddy Bear Clinic was one of two to be offered this year: one in Van Horn, Texas, and one at Maxine Silva Health Magnet High School in El Paso.

The 2017 Teddy Bear Clinic is sponsored by TTUHSC El Paso, the TTUHSC El Paso AHEC, and the Guidance and Counseling Services at EPISD.

Photos by Tommie Morelos, Office of Institutional Advancement.