Thursday, August 13, 2009

14-year-old 'surgeon' to present findings today

Tony Hansberry II is a ninth-grader who, as it happens, will be presenting his findings today before an auditorium filled with doctors just like any of his board-certified - and decades older - colleagues would. He would say he was following in the footsteps of "Doogie Howser, M.D." - if he weren't too young to have heard of the television show. Instead, he says that his remarkable accomplishments are merely steps toward his ultimate goal of becoming a University of Florida-trained neurosurgeon. "I just want to help people and be respected, knowing that I can save lives," said Tony, the son of a registered nurse mom and an African Methodist Episcopal church pastor dad. To be sure, he had some help along the way, but, then again, most researchers do. The seeds of his project were planted last summer during his internship at the University of Florida's Center for Simulation Education and Safety Research, based at Shands Jacksonville.

To understand why a teenager would be a hospital intern, it's important to know that Tony is a student down the street from Shands at Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School, a magnet school geared toward all things medical. (Students, for example, master suturing by the eighth grade.) At the simulation center, where medical residents and nurses practice on dummies, the normally shy student warmed up to the center's administrative director, Bruce Nappi. In turn, Nappi, a problem-solver with a Massachusetts Institute of Technology aeronautics degree, found someone willing to learn. One day, an obstetrics and gynecology professor asked the pair to help him figure out why no one was using a handy device that looks like a dipstick with clamps at the end, called an endo stitch, for sewing up hysterectomy patients. In other procedures, it proved its worth for its ability to grip pieces of thread and maneuverability.

What Tony did next is so complicated that the professor who suggested the project has to resort to a metaphor to explain it: "Instead of buttoning your shirt side to side, what about doing it up and down?" Brent Seibel said. Here's the literal explanation: The problem was that the endo stitch couldn't clamp down properly to close the tube where the patient's uterus had been. Tony figured that by suturing the tube vertically instead of horizontally, it could be done. And he was right. Nappi said he came up with the idea but didn't tell Tony, letting him come to the conclusion himself. "It was truly independent that he figured it out," Nappi said, adding that a representative for the device's manufacturer told him that the endo stitch had never been used for that purpose. Tony's unpracticed hands were able to stitch three times faster with the endo stitch vs. the conventional needle driver.
Further study may prove whether the same is true for more experienced surgeons, Seibel said. In addition to cutting surgical time, the technique may help surgeons who don't do many hysterectomies because it's easier to use the endo stitch, he added. Tony's presentation today is part of UF's medical education week, a time to spotlight teaching advancements, a hospital spokeswoman said. Tony often speaks in the highly technical, dispassionate language of doctors. In that respect, he's not the exception but the rule at Darnell-Cookman, said Angela TenBroeck, the school's medical lead teacher. But he has surged ahead of others when it comes to surgical skills. "I would put him up against a first-year med student," she said. "He's an outstanding young man, and I'm proud to have him representing us.", (904) 359-4083

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Grad Prep Academy

An Initiative Focused on Preparing for Doctoral Study in Education
Penn GSE has made a serious commitment to preparing promising undergraduate scholars for admission to and success in Ph.D. programs in the field of education.

We are seeking to identify talented undergraduates who are entering their junior year for participation in our Grad Prep Academy, a program that includes a four-day visit to the University of Pennsylvania in November 2009. We will select 10 college juniors and cover all their travel expenses, lodging, and meals. During their visit to our campus, the selected scholars will learn more about applying to and succeeding in graduate school; hear about the excellent research of our faculty; interact with our graduate students and alumni; and tour Philadelphia. Next spring, we will pay for Academy participants to take a three-month Kaplan course valued at $1,200 to prepare for the Graduate Record Exam (the GRE is required for admission to most education doctoral programs). Additionally, each Academy participant will be paired with a current Ph.D. student in education at Penn GSE or elsewhere who will offer mentoring throughout the graduate school application process, feedback on essays and other application materials, and advice on where else to apply besides Penn GSE. Lastly, Academy Scholars who apply for Fall 2011 admission to one of our Ph.D. Programs at Penn GSE will receive an application fee waiver; that deadline is December 1, 2010.

Because a master’s degree is not required for admission to Ph.D. programs at Penn GSE, our goal is to enroll as many of the Academy participants as possible in our doctoral programs in Fall 2011, the semester after completion of their undergraduate degrees. Each of our Ph.D. students is fully-funded for 4 years and supported by paid research assistantships with faculty. Academy participation in no way guarantees eventual admission to the University of Pennsylvania. If not at Penn GSE, our larger aim is for all 10 scholars to enroll in highly-selective graduate programs in education at top research universities in Fall 2011.

THIS PROGRAM IS FOR JUNIORS ONLY — those who are starting their junior year of college in Fall 2009 and anticipate earning bachelor’s degrees at the end of Spring 2011. Applications are invited from students across all majors, not just education. However, only those who have intellectual interests that are somehow related to education (the study of teaching and learning, human development, educational psychology and counseling, history of education, K-12 or higher education leadership, sociology or philosophy of education, language and literacy, educational disparities that disadvantage certain populations, education finance, research methodologies applied to education, student affairs and college student development, or K-12 or higher education policy) should apply.

All application materials must be submitted electronically (using the form below) no later than 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Friday, August 21, 2009. Each applicant will receive a decision within four weeks. Please direct all questions to the Grad Prep Academy Co-Directors, Professor Shaun R. Harper ( and Penn GSE Dean Andrew C. Porter (
Submit An Online Application Now

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