Hopkins Pathology: >1000 Employees Plus >40 Fourth Graders!

That’s right!  Every year over 40 fourth graders from two local elementary schools are “adopted” by the employees in Pathology.

Children observing in the Grossing Room

The Adopt-a-Class Career Day program began in 2001 as an initiative of the JH Human Resources Department to highlight hospital careers that do not get the attention that doctors and nurses do. The idea was simple.   Create a team of Hopkins employees who represent three career paths (departments).   Schedule the team to visit one fourth grade class monthly for five months, then invite the class to the Hospital for a tour of the highlighted departments.

The first diverse team, Pathology, Clinical Engineering, and LifeLine Patient Transport, pioneered the first Career Days at Tench Tilghman Elementary School.  Adopting fourth graders, by visiting them each month, was an opportunity to build relationships to consistently tell them about careers they may never hear about through the usual channels.

Why fourth graders? Meet one and it’s easy to see why this age group is perfect for a program like this:  their reading and writing skills are developed enough for creative ways of teaching/sharing; their critical thinking skills are just beginning and “light bulb moments” are huge; and, they are relatively free of peer pressures which allows them a freedom to learn and express themselves that will soon shrink and shrink until adolescence pushes them back into individual freedom again.

Why three departments?  Three different topics in one hour are just about the right for fourth-grader attention spans. Add in a greeting/introduction and a wrap-up closing, and this gives each department representative about 12 minutes to tell his/her career story and to do something interactive to show a few job functions in the department.

Students exploring their first laboratory instrument

In 2004, the first team won a Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service award, and the program was validated to grow and improve.   Currently, there are four teams visiting three schools.  Pathology is represented on TWO teams!  As coordinator for Pathology on both of these teams, I have arranged a sequence of topics (see below) and invite other Pathology employees to present.  The program improved by creating five themes shared by all career paths, and one to explore each monthly visit and to tie departments together.

In addition, we created a guided journal , written by myself and illustrated by Catherine Kiefe of Hopkins Art as Applied to Medicine Department, where the students write their “Ah Ha!” moments to remember in years to come.

Pathology has so many interesting things to showcase, and it would be easy to add ourselves to a third team …  if we had enough volunteers to spend 90 minutes once a month away from their usual day and present their career story in 15 minutes.  Additionally, we always need help facilitating the grand finale tours each April-May.   Please reply to this blog or contact [email protected] for more information or to volunteer.   Working with the children is a very enriching  and rewarding experience – they are eager to learn and a such pleasure to work with!

Month and Theme City Springs Elementary School

Pathology, Hopkins International, Human Resources

Tench Tilghman Elementary School

Pathology, Art in Medicine, Neurology Business

November: Good Habits Clinical Pathology (“I Had a Lab Test” book) Microbiology (see what grows if you don’t wash your hands!)
December: Communication Computers (PDS) Chemistry (pretend diabetes clinic)
January:  Teamwork Phlebotomy (demo with the “fake” arm) Phlebotomy (demo with the “fake” arm)
February:  Setting Goals Research (Fellows, Faculty) Immunology (vaccines)
March:  Making Plans Anatomical Pathology (“Good Cell, Bad Cell” & cancer treatments) Hematology & Blood Bank (blood: the tissue of life)
April/May:  Tours    

Thank you,

Christine Hostetter, MT(ASCP)
Education and Staff Development CoordinatorCore and Specialty LaboratoriesDepartment of Pathology