Students Become Neuroscientists For a Day

Keith L. Black, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, welcomed more than 100 local middle school students to the 21st annual Brainworks program on March 11 in Harvey Morse Auditorium.

Fernanda Martinez (center, right) from Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School was one of 100 students to participate in the Brainworks program, which seeks to inspire youngsters to pursue careers in science and healthcare.

The highly interactive, one-day program is designed to inspire students and encourage them to pursue careers in science and healthcare.

Students listened to remarks from Black and neurologist Robert Baloh, MD, PhD, a professor of Neurology, then broke into groups to explore interactive exhibits and presentations.

"I think they really enjoy the hands-on experience," Black said.

Some of the highlights included a research station, where students could learn about experiments while holding real sheep brains, and an imaging station, where the students practiced using real medical imaging equipment. Students also had the opportunity to handle surgical tools, use virtual reality headsets and practice rehabilitation exercises.

Afternoon sessions included presentations from various medical professionals across Cedars-Sinai, including J. Manuel Sarmiento, MD; Padmesh Rajput, PhD, an assistant professor of Neurology; Maria Cecilia Alpasan, OTR/L, and Laurie Paletz, RN.

Black was inspired to become a neurosurgeon after attending a similar program when he was growing up.

He envisioned Brainworks as a way for students to meet physicians, explore medical facilities and get a close-up view of leading-edge research. He hoped the program would provide motivation and encouragement for students to stay in school, pursue higher education and consider the possibilities of a career in medicine.

"I remember how important it was for me… and what a huge impact it had on me. We just wanted to make sure we had a program like this at Cedars-Sinai," Black said.