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Aspiring Young Healthcare Professionals Make Rounds During 2nd Annual Future Health Champions Day

Professor Justin Shaffer
(from left) Professor Justin Shaffer, Department of Developmental and Cell Biology, with Gianna Chandler, UCI senior in nursing and Adey Nyamathi, dean of the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, explains the anatomy of a sheep heart to El Sol Academy students during Future Health Champions Day.

They dissected sheep hearts, learned to treat wounds and listen for vital signs.  They looked at bacteria glowing with fluorescence.  They even practiced CPR on lifelike human simulators.  If it sounds like a program for college students, it is.  However, the 51 students who participated in the Future Health Champions Day were all seventh- and eighth-graders from El Sol Academy in Santa Ana. 

El Sol Academy students check vital signs

"The students we had visiting from El Sol Academy were exceptional," said Nancy Neudorf, MSN, RN, FNP, one of two Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing instructors who headed up the dynamic nursing program for middle school students. “It’s so inspiring to see these young kids explore college life and potentially a career in the health sciences.”

Now in its second year, Future Health Champions Day builds on a much longer relationship between the school of nursing and the El Sol Academy.

"We initially partnered with UCI back in 2010 with the intent of having the nursing school students offer medical services to the families of students at El Sol,” said Sara Flores, director of Community Life at El Sol Academy in Santa Ana.

Through the partnership with El Sol, nursing students visited the El Sol campus and provided various health screenings and nutrition education. They developed a Healthy Bodies curriculum for the seventh and eighth-graders, and a Healthy Minds program for kids in third, fourth and fifth grade. 

“The nursing students were around campus a lot.  They built a connection with our community, they mentored our students and promoted careers in the medical profession,” said Flores. “We were thrilled when they invited our students to the UCI campus for a day of hands-on health education activities.”   

The first Future Health Champions Day was held in 2016. 

“We’re building a community built on caring and learning through our collaboration with El Sol,” said Gianna Chandler, a nursing student at UCI.  “Through this program we teach kids how to live healthy lives and they share that information with their families. We also open their eyes about career opportunities available in healthcare, opportunities that some of these students might never have been aware of otherwise.” 

“Nursing students from UCI work on site in Santa Ana with the El Sol community all year long. They gain both clinical and teaching experience by conducting health screenings and teaching a wide variety of health topics,” said Neudorf. “The Future Health Champions

Day provides an opportunity to collaborate with various UCI and community partners to introduce young people, from an under-represented area, to careers in the health sciences.”

Nurse practitioner graduate student Trudy Chancellor

“Through this program we’re hoping to see some of our seniors go into healthcare careers,” said Flores.  “The exposure is really great for the students. Through UCI, our students feel more prepared, in the event of an emergency, to help their families. Future Health Champions Day is a program we are definitely going to continue.”   

"It's programs like this one that can make a real difference in the future of a young student, especially those who are as disadvantaged as some of the ones we see from El Sol," Chandler.  "It would be really rewarding to see some of these kids end up at UCI one day."

Melissa Tran, Grace Chung, Gianna Chandler, and Angela Chung were among the UCI nursing students who led the Future Health Champions through the various health education stations and answered questions along the way.


El Sol students learned about the following topics in stations around the UCI health sciences campus:

El Sol Academy students learned and practiced CPR techniques
  • Healthy habits - mindfulness meditation and physical activity breaks, nutritionally and environmentally healthy lunches and snacks
  • Anatomy of the thoracic and abdominal organs via ultrasonography
  • Medical education via the Med Ed simulation center technology
  • CPR - including instruction in hands-only CPR
  • First aid - including RICE, wound and burn care, vital signs assessment, and contents of a first aid kit
  • Substance abuse - the
     effects of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine on human organs, drunk vision goggles simulation
  • Microbiology - how to use a microscope, bacteria
  • Biology - cardiac anatomy and physiology via dissected sheep hearts
  • Pediatric exercise physiology and research - the effects of aerobic exercise on vital signs and lung function
  • Splinting - when to apply, how to apply, and how to care for a splint

Founded in 2001, El Sol Science & Arts Academy of Santa Ana is a dual-immersion charter school with more than 850 students enrolled in preschool through eighth grade.  Since its inception, student test scores have risen dramatically at El Sol, which is today recognized as one of the top-two performing schools in Santa Ana.

The Future Health Champions program is supported in part by a grant from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, as a pipeline activity to inspire young people from under-represented and diverse ethnic communities to consider a career in the health professions. It is part of a series of community health events developed by Nancy Neudorf and Raquel Martinez-Campos from the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing.