Jobs in science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine continue to grow in Arizona and across the nation, increasing the demand for more students to pursue careers in STEM.
While STEM jobs within Arizona are expected to grow by 23 percent between 2014 and 2024, the interest in STEM careers is not continuing to increase. According to a recent report by Junior Achievement USA, interest in STEM careers among high school males has decreased by 36 percent while girls’ interest remains unchanged, in comparison to previous years.
Specifically, in medicine, the demand for physicians has increased over the years while the physician shortage has worsened. Phoenix now ranks fourth in the country among top U.S. cities with unfilled physician jobs. The physician shortage is predicted to reach more than 120,000 by 2032, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix is addressing this issue by inspiring children and young adults to pursue careers in STEM and medicine through interactive events and pipeline programs that focus on introducing them to various areas of STEM.
The college’s largest outreach event, Connect2STEM, is Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. More than 10,000 kids and families are expected to attend, where they will interact with 150 hands-on activities. This year’s event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 550 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix.
“Our hope is to inspire the next generation of future scientists, physicians, and STEM professionals through hands-on activities,” Guy Reed, MD, MS, dean of the College of Medicine – Phoenix said. “Children will have the opportunity to interact with STEM beyond math and science in the classroom. They will see first-hand how it’s used every day to make space equipment, scientific discoveries, video games, robots and even used to save lives.”
Attendees can scrub in at the Brainworks Lab, which will feature virtual reality procedures performed by a neurosurgeon at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. Individuals can test the steadiness of their hands as a neurosurgeon, learn about the anatomy of brains and eyeballs, gown up for a photo with Connect2STEM superheroes, and use a fluorescence microscope to see glowing tumors.
“Nothing represents an investment in STEM and an investment in the future of Arizona than right here at the Biomedical Campus in the heart of downtown Phoenix,” said U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, at the 2019 Connect2STEM. “So many young people will visit the medical school for the first time and say, ‘That could be me as a future doctor, surgeon, nurse or physician assistant.’ That’s what Connect2STEM is all about.”
Along with the Brainworks Lab, the University of Arizona Cancer Center will exhibit its giant colon. The 10-foot-long, 150-pound inflatable colon raises awareness about colon health, teaching how polyps can form and eventually become cancerous if not removed in time. Attendees also will be able to interact with Suni the Robot, make slime with the Arizona Ghost Busters and virtually fly an airplane in a flight simulator. Drones, robotic dinosaurs, virtual reality technology, video games, space equipment, and chemistry experiments are among the exhibits.
The cornerstone of Connect2STEM is a vast simulation room where children can learn from medical students how to intubate a realistic medical mannequin, take vitals, perform ultrasounds and practice surgery skills with the da Vinci surgical robot. At the Wildcat Play Hospital, little ones can give their stuffed animals annual checkups – just like their pediatrician.
“This a really great opportunity to broaden the knowledge and appreciation of just how far science goes and how it’s used every day,” said 2019 attendee Pamela Garcia-Filion. “The real success of Connect2STEM is that while we’re targeting kids, one of the byproducts is that we’re reaching the adults. I think that’s fantastic.”
Registration is strongly encouraged. By registering early, you will be automatically entered to win an iPad and receive $10 off parking. To learn more about Connect2STEM, visit http://phoenixmed.arizona.edu/connect2stem.
Other pipeline programs that encourage engagement in STEM at the college include Summer and Saturday Scrubs, which explore high school students’ interest in becoming a physician by introducing participants to a variety of topics in medicine; the Basic Medical Sciences Summer Internship that provides high school students the opportunity to train in a laboratory setting and explore careers in research and medicine, and the college’s Pathways Program, which is designed for students who have experienced unique or greater than average challenges in preparing them to become competitive medical school applicants.