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Health Sciences Brought to Life for High School Students


Viola Surratt (left), first year pharmacy student, guides North Little Rock High School student Hannah McCray through the process of making soap.

Whitney Jokodola (left), UAMS pharmacy student, assists Abby Smith and Madison Ford in making lip balm.

Robert Burns, Ph.D., professor in the department of neurobiology and developmental biology in the UAMS College of Medicine (left), lets Madison Ford, Mutema Kwanisai and Abby Smith examine a human heart.

North Little Rock High School students Jason Woodworth and Joyclynn Thompson, learn about cilia during a hands-on activity led by Robert Burns, Ph.D.


April 15, 2014 | North Little Rock High School students moved their arms to mimic cilia, held a human heart and donned lab coats to concoct soap with the help of UAMS College of Pharmacy students and the Partners in Health Sciences Program (PIHS).

UAMS recently exposed 20 students to pharmacy skills and health science concepts such as the biology of cancer, the functional anatomy of the heart, cardiovascular system and skin, and the traits of major diseases like emphysema.

Students spent time in the lab using glycerin, dye, fragrance and petroleum jelly to make their own soap and lip balm under the direction of volunteers from the UAMS Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA).

“We want to show students the behind-the-scenes of pharmacy,” said Clarice Montgomery, first-year UAMS College of Pharmacy student. “Pharmacy goes beyond what they see on the shelves at their local pharmacy.”

Most of the student participants already have their sights set on a pharmacy career, like North Little Rock High School senior Jason Woodworth.

“I am really advanced in math and science and I am already working in a pharmacy,” he said. “I think it’s really interesting to work with all the different medicines.”

Robert Burns, Ph.D., professor in the department of neurobiology and developmental biology in the UAMS College of Medicine and founding director of the PIHS program since its inception in 1991, led interactive workshops “Biology of Cancer” and “Healthy Lungs and Gums” to foster interest in health science and healthy living.

He used foam squares, construction paper, elastic bands and even a stuffed animal to catch the students’ attention in showing how processes work in the body.

“My goal is to expose the students to some in-depth health science content that most probably do not get in middle or high school,” Burns said. “In the workshop the students performed as cells in different normal and abnormal situations such as the ciliary wave of the respiratory system in a normal situation and bombarded by tobacco smoke.”

The lab work and the workshops encouraged the students to “kick it up a notch or two,” said John Nilz, doctor of veterinary medicine and teacher in the Medical Professions Department of North Little Rock High – West Campus. 

“This was an awesome experience for a set of seniors who felt honored by the special treatment,” Nilz said. “The lecture with Dr. Burns made some of them realize the challenge of a medical profession. We truly appreciated UAMS’ accommodations.”

The PIHS program has provided thousands of hours of professional development statewide to Pre-K-12 teachers as well as nurses and students. The program is financially supported by UAMS, National Institutes of Health Center for Research Resources, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Cancer Coalition, Arkansas Department of Higher Education, and the Arkansas Department of Human Services – Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education. 

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