Mini Medical School connects Florida science and health teachers with College of Medicine experts

Science and health educators from more than 20 counties across the state recently gathered at the University of Florida to meet College of Medicine experts and experience lab demonstrations, participate in hand-on activities and learn about the latest research advances, gaining knowledge and skills to bring back to their students and classrooms.

Known as Mini Medical School, the one-day immersive program gives Florida secondary school, health and vocational educators the opportunity to broaden their understanding of important health science topics through instruction and interaction with leading health care professionals and researchers. Hosted by the UF Center for Precollegiate Education and Training, or CPET, and funded by the UF Medical Guild, the event focuses on timely biomedical sciences topics and equips participants with the skills to enhance their classroom experience and share recent breakthroughs with their colleagues and students.

“It is gratifying to have teachers join us from all over the state, including some who travel from very far distances, to explore recent discoveries and technologies that are changing medicine by ameliorating illness and improving human health,” said Mary Jo Koroly, Ph.D., director of CPET and research associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology with the College of Medicine. “Our kids are going to be taking care of us one day, and what these teachers are doing in their classrooms is going to inspire them to enter the health professions and make a lasting impact on so many people the future.”

Although Mini Medical School has been held continuously each semester since 1996, the event has been reformatted and is now a key component of the newly established UF Health Academy for Science and Careers. Developed in 2022 as an alliance between CPET and UF Health, the academy promotes K-16 student and teacher health science education throughout Florida and creates STEM career pathways. Since then, College of Medicine and UF Health faculty, staff and students have taken on a greater role in CPET-affiliated programs, including Mini Medical School.

This year’s Mini Medical School highlighted advances in cardiology, with participants hearing lectures from three College of Medicine faculty and attending hands-on breakout sessions. Sessions included a electocardiogram demonstration at the advanced magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy facility, guided instruction on best-practices in CPR and activities for teaching cardiology to pre-collegiate students.

More than 40 educators attended from 20 Florida counties, including Orange, Marion, Clay Sarasota, Broward, Duval, Seminole, St. Johns, Pinellas and Hillsborough. Not only was the information gleaned from UF experts invaluable, participants said, but the collaboration with fellow science and health teachers also sparked ideas for elevating classroom activities and advancing student interest in health careers.

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Cody Hawley May 3, 2024