Lifestyle

Cardiology 101 at MIHS

For Dr. Richard Page, parental involvement in education doesn’t stop with asking the daily question, “How was your day at school?” or taking a crack at a tough geometry proof after dinner.

On March 7, the father of Mercer Island High School junior Eddie Page and head of cardiology at the University of Washington Medical Center gave two lectures at the high school detailing everything from current research projects at the university to how to use a defibrillator. Dozens of students filed into the library presentation room during each lunch period with brown bags in hand, eager to learn about the human heart.

Page began with a brief summary of the sheer amount of education needed to become a doctor. His words were not lost — many kids in the room were AP Biology students, already on the science track and headed toward medical school. Some may even end up at the UW, where Page said students are studying such subjects as genetic linkage to sudden cardiac arrest and heart transplants on mice.

The purpose of the transplants is to develop better ways to keep a human patient from rejecting a new heart. Page made the delicacy of this surgery easy to grasp by explaining that a human heart is about the size of a fist, which is already tricky enough, but a mouse heart is only as big as the nail of a pinky finger.

Putting too-technical terms into everyday English was a common theme throughout Page’s presentation, which made the information easier to understand.

Instead of calling a gadget an “atrial septal defect closure device,” he described the tool as two umbrella tops closing over a deadly hole in the heart. In the past, doctors had to open up the chest to sew up such a hole. But now, employing these utensils, they can fix it by working up through the leg, greatly decreasing the risk to the patient. Page even brought in several of the “umbrella tops” so students could get their hands on the latest machinery that surgeons are using today.

“It amazed me that they have such advanced technology and can be so minimally invasive for such complicated surgeries,” said MIHS senior Lauren Schergen.

Umbrella tops were not the only devices that Page supplied as visual aids.

In addition, he brought in a real defibrillator and demonstrated it on a practice prop during his lecture. He explained that it was automated and would only shock a patient if it found arrhythmias, or rhythm disturbances, in the heartbeat. As he placed the metal patches on the dummy, the machine even narrated instructions in case the user wasn’t quite as certified as Page. For kids whose closest glimpse at medical equipment is on the TV series Grey’s Anatomy, seeing this device in action was a unique opportunity.

“It was an interesting presentation. I learned a lot from it that I didn’t know that much about,” said MIHS sophomore Dan Caputo.

Part of a good education is observing the pros at work -- it provides insight into future occupations as well as supplementing curriculum.

“I feel it’s really important that people from outside the halls of MIHS talk about their work in the real world. It gives deeper meaning to what [students] learn in the classroom,” said MIHS science teacher Sharon Laska.

Not only did students leave Page’s presentation knowing the difference between a stroke and a heart attack, they left with a greater awareness of different options they have in choosing a profession.

“Medicine is a long road, but it is worth the effort,” said Page.

With the top-notch science curriculum taught at MIHS, there’s no better place to cultivate a life-long interest in the sciences.

“It’s the best high school in the world,” Page said, smiling.

Brittany Wong is a senior at MIHS and a reporter for the school newspaper, The Islander.

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