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The patient was bruised, and looked a little green. A long incision needed to be closed, stat.And here I was, in my gown, mask, eye protection, and gloves, suturing equipment at the ready. Too bad I’d never been to medical or dental school. I do happen to come from two generations of dentists, but, as I was soon to learn, genetics will only take you so far.
Grasping the needle-holder in a frighteningly unorthodox fashion, I attempted the first suture. “Oops.” “Uh-oh.” “What the…” All exclamations you decidedly don’t want to hear from the person who’s attempting to stitch you up.
But as it turned out, my patient’s name tag read “Del Monte.” And my muttering—and clumsy attempts at patching the wound—were ultimately of little consequence. I was in the Simulation Clinic on the fourteenth floor of the School of Dental Medicine, under the watchful eye of Associate Professor Melissa Ing, D89, practicing suturing techniques on a banana.
It’s the way most third-year dental students begin to learn the skill. It’s also an exercise Ing leads middle-school students through at “Mini-Medical School,” a summer program offered for the past several years at Boston’s Museum of Science and on Massachusetts’ Nantucket island.
Ing conducts the program with student and faculty volunteers from Tufts, colleagues from the University of Connecticut and New York University, and a representative from Colgate-Palmolive. This is the third year Ing coordinated the Mini-Med activities at the Museum of Science, and the second on Nantucket; the district uses part of a state Department of Education Innovation Pathways grant to cover the expenses.
The program has proved enormously popular with Nantucket’s middle-schoolers, who seldom have the chance to go off-island for enrichment activities like this, said Michael Horton, director of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum for …