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Hands-on Heart Revelations

Published on Feb. 26, 2020

Dr. Roberto Corpus pumps up a lung for students. Below, Dr. Nicklaus Slocum helps
students dissect their pigs hearts.

Fifth-graders at Immaculate Conception Elementary School recently experienced real “hands-on” learning using pig hearts and lungs – with some assistance from members of Munson Healthcare’s Heart Services team.

Cardiologists Roberto Corpus, MD, FACC, and Nicklaus Slocum, FACC, FSCAI, as well as nurse practitioner Rebecca Eichberger, FNP-C, nurses Joe Beckwith, BSN, RN, Chris Seaford, RN, and cardiovascular tech Cindy Simon, RCIS, all helped more than 80 students learn the chambers of the heart, its valves, and heart blood flow. They also received valuable information about the dangers of vaping and smoking.

“We’re just extremely grateful for the time they take to interact with students,” said Sharon Taylor, fifth-grade teacher. “The best way to learn is hands-on. We’re grateful for their expertise and inspiring our students. It’s something they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Each group of students experienced the sound of one another’s heart beat through a stethoscope, and were shown the techniques and tools interventional cardiologists use to help people diagnosed with heart blockages. Eichberger explained the heart’s electrical system and both physicians and the nurses spent time with students dissecting into pig hearts to identify the chambers and valves.

Cardiologists also answered students’ questions about the heart. One student asked: “When we get nervous, why does my heart start pumping?” Dr. Slocum then talked about the effect of stress and fear on the heart.

Other questions included the possibility of kids needing a pacemaker, about what heart part generates the noise when the heart beats, and what causes a heart attack. Dr. Slocum talked about heart blockages and encouraged students to learn a new skill.

“In a few years, it would be good for everyone here to learn how to do CPR,” he said.

At the pig heart-and-lungs station, students pressed on a plastic resuscitator bag with an air tube connected down into the pig lungs. As the students made the lungs rise and fall, physicians talked about the heart and lung connection and how important healthy lungs are to the heart and life.

“This why you don’t want to smoke or vape,” Dr. Corpus said.

Dr. Corpus said it was his fifth year spending a morning with fifth-graders – and he enjoys the inquiring minds.

“I think it actually has spurred interest in science and in the medical profession,” he said. “It kind of unlocks this interest when they can touch and feel and see how things actually can work, and how we can fix things.”

Learn more about Munson Healthcare heart services at munsonhealthcare.org/heart.