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Hospital tour inspires Indigenous students with robotics, simulated surgery and art

Planting the seeds

May 2019

Hospital tour inspires Indigenous students with robotics, simulated surgery and art

Hospital tour inspires Indigenous students with robotics, simulated surgery and art



For Viv Freeman it’s all about planting seeds.

Viv runs the Yurungai Learning Centre at Waterloo, which provides an afterschool program for indigenous primary students, many who come from disadvantaged families.

“Any child can fulfil their dream.

“You’ve just got to plant the seed and nurture it so that a child can grow-up and be whoever they want to be.

“One day…we may look back and say ‘We were there when they were thinking about becoming a surgeon’,” she said.

That’s why Viv accepted an invitation to bring a group of students from the centre, which is operated by the children’s charity Barnardos, to visit RPA hospital. To show them that if they worked hard at school, they too could study to become a doctor, surgeon or nurse.

Over two days, the students participated in hands-on interactive tours of RPA’s Institute of Academic Surgery (IAS), the Surgical and Robotics Training Institute and an art workshop run by Arterie @RPA.

The students visited a surgical skills laboratory where Zahara Laumua, 9, who attends Alexandria Park Community School, used a training machine and instruments to practice keyhole surgery.

“I’m trying to get a rope through these holes which is very tricky. It feels very weird. It feels like you want to pull it though with your hands.

“I feel really lucky because if I want to be a doctor I know how to do it because I’ve started training at a very young age,” she said.

At a simulation operating theatre, the students practiced CPR on a mannequin, nicknamed Barry Stone, who breathes, blinks, has a pulse, a heartbeat and can cough and scream.

“We had to save Barry,” Micah Day, 7, said as he practiced chest compressions. “I learnt about saving people’s lives.”

The students watched a 3D printer in action and with her safety glasses on, Ashanti Afu grasped a blue plastic miniature dinosaur that the machine created.

“It’s a dinosaur!” she exclaimed. “It came from the printer which makes 3D stuff. It’s cool and interesting to look at,” she said.

They later played games using robots at the Surgical and Robotics Training Institute.

“It’s awesome,” Tyrone Snaea, 9, said of his visit.

“I might be a brain surgeon. Because you might be able to look inside their [the patient’s] head and see if there’s anything there. You need to practice…and go to university,” he said.

Kate McBride, the executive director of RPA IAS said all the staff enjoy having children visit the facility.

“It brings a lot joy to us and reminds us of what we’re doing … and why we do research to make treatment better,” she said.

On a return visit, the students participated in a tour of RPA, a Q and A session with a surgeon and an art workshop run by Amanda Solomon and her team from Arterie @ RPA.

“On the tour we showed them eight different art works at the hospital and talked to them about the shapes, colours and materials used to create them,” Amanda said.

Dressed in her scrubs, surgical registrar Harinder Bains chatted to the students who quizzed her about her job as a surgeon.

The students then made some POP-inspired artwork.

They used oil pastels to accentuate certain features in a black and white portrait, then cut it into pieces and assembled the deconstructed portrait onto coloured paper.

“Most of the students had been to a hospital because they were sick or had visited someone else who was a patient. So, it was fantastic to give them a positive experience of a hospital and for them to see it from a different angle,” Amanda said.

The students’ artwork will now be proudly displayed at Yurungai Learning Centre.

“Hanging the artwork up at the centre is a way for us to acknowledge and remember our visit here,” Viv said.

“The two days have sparked lots of different conversations among the students.

“It was an amazing opportunity for them and a way for us to plant the seed to encourage them to aspire to be whoever they want to be,” Viv said.

To view the image gallery please click here.

To see video of the students visit click here.

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Page Last Updated: 27 May, 2020