Mini Med School is open to all ages

The program provides some medical education to the community.

Jean Herron, a retired scientist in pediatrics, attempts to trace a simple shape in a mirror box activity at Moos Tower on Monday. The mirror box exercise is meant to show cognitive challenges an individual might have after a brain injury.

Marisa Wojcik

Jean Herron, a retired scientist in pediatrics, attempts to trace a simple shape in a mirror box activity at Moos Tower on Monday. The mirror box exercise is meant to show cognitive challenges an individual might have after a brain injury.

Kali Dingman

 

Sitting in a medical school classroom in Moos Tower earlier this week, middle schoolers, retirees, businessmen and dozens of others listened intently to a speaker talking about the importance of the brain.

They’re all students in the Mini Medical School, created by the Academic Health Center in 1999 to provide education for community members who want to learn about the medical field.

Each semester, roughly 200 students pile into a lecture hall once a week over a five-week term to listen to a professor speak about research or clinical applications he or she is conducting.

The two and a half hour long sessions include two speakers. Each speaker presents for about 45 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session.

“Mini Medical School offers the public a place to learn about disease, physiology and anatomy by those clinicians and researchers at the top of their fields,” said second-year medical student and emcee Tori Bahr.

According to a survey done by the school, 71 percent of the students are between the ages of 46 and 80, but they’ve had students as young as 12 years old.

“The classes bring an engaged group of people to campus who would not usually [take medical school classes],” said Steve Jepsen, coordinator of Mini Medical School.

The school is modeled after the Washington, D.C.-based National Institutes of Health’s community education program, he said.

Second-year medical student Megan Brandeland, another emcee for the class, was impressed by her students.

“They ask really good questions, and they are a very diverse group of people,” she said.

Every semester, the school focuses on a different topic. This semester’s session that finished March 5 was called “It’s All in Your Head: The Latest in Brain Science and Treatment.”

Students learned about topics like post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries and stroke.

The cost is $80 for the general public and $65 for people affiliated with the University of Minnesota. The speakers participate for free, so the cost goes toward refreshments served at the sessions and class materials.

Before certain sessions, professors will have interactive displays of their work for students to get hands-on experience.

The program is run by volunteers, many of whom have been attending the Mini Medical classes for years.

Mary Wrobel, a recent retiree from the University, has been attending the sessions for several years and volunteers with administration for the program.

“It is such an important program for learning about what is going on at the U and at the Academic Health Center,” Wrobel said.

Though she has no medical background, she said she still feels comfortable sitting in the large lecture hall and understands the material presented to her.

“The presenters really know how to teach to people who don’t know anything about the topic,” she said.