Mini med school teaches public about neurology

The five-week long classes give participants a taste of the neurology field.

by Hayley Odom

Carleton College junior Mark Ericson said he isn’t sure if applying to medical school is in his future plans. But he’s testing the possibility through the University’s Mini Medical School lecture series.

For the next three Monday nights, community members will learn through lectures about neuroscience, brain anatomy, brain disorders, new technologies and ethical issues with stem cell research.

Approximately 300 people registered for the Minneapolis lecture series. This year, the lectures are also broadcast live to places in greater Minnesota such as Duluth, Hibbing and Crookston to approximately 100 more people, said Jon Hallberg, Department of Family Practice and Community Health professor and an organizer for the series.

“I enjoyed it a lot,” Ericson said of his first lecture. “I picked up a brain for a while – just kind of squeezed it a bit. It’s a lot of fun, because it’s hands-on and not just all in a lecture hall.”

Ericson said he is not receiving any school credit for the course and is taking it for his own interest. He said his experience in Oct. 4’s class influenced his decision to apply for medical school.

“It’s not exactly like medical school (where) there’s a lot more pressure,” he said. “But I could follow what they were saying, and I was finding it interesting and wanted to learn more.”

Hallberg said the program is in its sixth year. All lecturers are affiliated with the University. Past topics included human sexuality, the respiratory system, the hidden cost of pharmaceutical drugs and infectious diseases, he said.

“There’s no question people are affected by health care,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to pursue an interest in a meaningful way.”

Mini Medical School also occurs in the spring, he said.

It will also focus on neuroscience.

University neuroscience professor and series lecturer Tim Ebner said the Mini Medical School is a good way to update the public on the University’s biomedical science and research areas.

“I think these people obviously have a genuine interest in biological and medical science,” he said. “Direct contact with an expert allows them to interact and get a sense of the excitement.”

Current medical students are also involved in the lecture series.

Second-year University medical student Josh Blomberg said he attended a similar course when he was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This year, he and other Medical School student volunteers are showing human cadaver brains and spinal cords to the series’ participants during lecture breaks.

“Learning how the body works is fundamental today,” he said.

Jim Putzke, a University alumnus, said he and his wife have attended all the lectures in the Mini Medical School series. He said his interest in medical topics began with his electrical engineering career in the medical device field.

“The topics change every year, so it’s something you can do over and over again,” he said. “The topics are very interesting, and the speakers are wonderful.”