La Fe Students Learn about Health Careers

By Laura L. Acosta

UTEP News Service

Fifth-grader Leslie Guerra isn’t sure if she wants to become a nurse or a veterinarian when she grows up, but after visiting the Clinical Laboratory Science Teaching Lab in UTEP’s Health Sciences and Nursing Building, she may want to add clinical lab scientist to her list.

“It was disgusting but really fun,” Guerra said about watching a test strip change color after it was dipped in a fluid sample.  “I liked seeing it when it was getting white from the chemicals.”Students from La Fe Preparatory School play with Chinese yo-yos in UTEP’s Exercise Science Teaching Lab. More than 200 students from the school visited UTEP on July 20. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News ServiceStudents from La Fe Preparatory School play with Chinese yo-yos in UTEP’s Exercise Science Teaching Lab. More than 200 students from the school visited UTEP on July 20. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News Service

Guerra was one of more than 200 pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students from La Fe Preparatory School who were invited to campus by the UTEP College of Health Sciences on July 20.

The visit was an opportunity for students to be exposed to different careers in the health sciences.

“We’re a college-bound campus, so we make it a point to have the kids visit the University and all its different departments to promote them going to college and pursuing a career,” said Karina Silva, La Fe’s principal. “They know the campus because we’ve been here so many times that it’s second nature to them. These educational field trips really make a difference and impact their lives.”

In the clinical laboratory science lab, students dressed in wraparound gowns and wore goggles and gloves as they checked for glucose and protein under the guidance of Lorraine Torres, clinical assistant professor and director of the Clinical Laboratory Sciences program.  

“They know about doctors and they know about nurses, but they don’t know about laboratory scientists,” Torres said. “When they see the different reactions of things that we do with urine and other body fluids, they go, ‘Wow, that is so cool!’”

She explained to the children that doctors can’t properly diagnose a patient until a clinical lab scientist steps in.

“We’re the science behind the art of medicine,” Torres said.

The students, who range in age from 4 to 10 years old, also stopped by the Exercise Science Teaching Lab, where kinesiology seniors Stephany Martinez and Travis Gutierrez showed the children how to play with Chinese yo-yos and spin jammers. The children also juggled scarves and played Star Wars using pool noodles as light sabers.

“Some of (the children) are very intrigued because they’ve never seen some of these games before and it’s something that they never thought of doing,” said Martinez, who is president of the UTEP Kinesiology Club. “By introducing some of these games, maybe they’re going to want to do them at their school.”

The activities showed the children that exercise can be fun.

“I think a lot of times we try to make play very structured - get in a line; you can only roll the ball from here,” said Nancy Torres, a lecturer in the Kinesiology Department. “They were rolling themselves into the bowling pins. You want their creativity to come out. They’re throwing up the scarves and they’re out of breath. Look at their sweaty face. We want those sweaty faces.”

Torres said the event also was an opportunity for her students to reach out to the community.

“It’s better than any test that I could give them. They have to go out and practice what they preach,” Torres said.

Students also toured the Center for Simulation, where they saw infant mannequins and props such as incubators and thermometers that nursing students use to practice taking care of babies and children in the maternal/child laboratory.

“This simulation lab is all about pretending, so that once you become a real nurse you know how to take care of a real patient,” Marta Rodriguez, one of the lab’s simulation technicians told a group of five-year-olds.

As part of their visit, the children also stopped by the UTEP Centennial Museum, where they saw the Nuestra Casa exhibit and learned about people living with tuberculosis.

It was the third time that Guerra had visited the UTEP campus.

“Today is cool because I learned where I’m going to be when I come to UTEP because I’m going to go to college when I grow up,” she said.