Medical school donates unused science equipment to public schools

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Tina M. Shelton, (808) 692-0897
Director of Communications, Office of Dean of Medicine
Dr. Rachel Boulay, (808) 692-0986
Assistant Professor, Cardiovascular Research Center
Posted: May 23, 2013

Ewa Makai Middle School Science teacher David Wong loads his truck with equipment.
Ewa Makai Middle School Science teacher David Wong loads his truck with equipment.

A great teacher can ignite a passion for learning, but a student's interest in science might wither without the modern, sophisticated and costly equipment that allows a true revelation to occur. We're talking about compounding microscopes that allow Baldwin High students to examine tissues and bacteria at a cellular level, laboratory benches eagerly accepted by Nānākuli High School on O`ahu's Leeward Coast, beakers and other glassware for Kea`au and Pahoa high schools on Hawai`i Island, and much, much more.

"The equipment and supplies were in excellent condition and of such high quality that we at the high school level probably could never afford to purchase them," said teacher Amy Ancheta of Maui's Baldwin High. "These pieces of equipment and supplies will benefit a wide range of students to experience hands-on, dynamic, real science."

The John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), through a creative initiative led by the medical school’s Center for Cardiovascular Research, has donated thousands of dollars worth of science equipment to 13 public schools on four islands.

For the past three years, the Center for Cardiovascular Research has offered a professional development program for public school science teachers, showing them the latest techniques in sessions within JABSOM's advanced medical research laboratories. The teachers took the knowledge they acquired back to their classrooms, but while she was teaching the teachers, JABSOM Assistant Professor Dr. Rachel Boulay learned something, too.

"We found that many of the schools didn't have basic supplies and equipment," said Dr. Boulay. She began to work with the facilities staff at JABSOM to coordinate donations from retired or displaced researchers who were willing to donate unneccessary supplies or equipment. She also tapped colleagues at Kapi`olani Community College to get involved.

"This partnership between high schools and the University of Hawai'i made it possible for 13 public high schools to benefit from the science equipment this last year alone," said Dr. Boulay. "As the demand for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) professions increases, so does the need for equipment in high school science labs."

Science equipment that was no longer needed by university researchers at Leahi Hospital and Kapi`olani Community College was donated. Repurposing the equipment also erased the cost associated with destroying lab equipment, and spared space in O`ahu's landfill, too. Center for Cardiovascular personnel volunteered by repairing, cleaning and delivering the equipment to public high schools on Hawai'i Island, Kaua'i, O'ahu and Maui.

Teachers like David Wong proudly showed off the equipment, which he came to Kaka`ako to load into his truck bed and haul to his middle school classroom on O`ahu. Baldwin's Ancheta was equally ebullient. "Thank you, JABSOM, for donating equipment and supplies," she said. "We already used mortar and pestle in DNA extraction lab last week and are planning to use dissecting microscope for our plants and animal unit next month."

Although it is a graduate school, JABSOM recognizes the need for Hawai`i's students to have opportunities to learn and become excited about science and health from their earliest years in the classroom.

"It’s never too early to implant the ideals of altruism and the willingness to lend a helping hand to someone in need," said JABSOM Dean Jerris Hedges, MD. "We know our future health professionals can be found in classrooms at any grade level. Through a number of programs, our faculty and MD students reach out to young people to encourage them to consider health careers, and to empower them with the knowledge that they could succeed in any number of careers, using their unique talents."

Schools that have benefited from the donated science equipment:

Baldwin High, Maui
Lahainaluna, Maui
Kapa`a High, Kaua`i
Ewa Makai Middle School, O`ahu
Farrington High, O`ahu
`Ilima Intermediate, O`ahu
Kalaheo High, O`ahu
Kapolei High, O`ahu
Kealakehe High, Hawai`i
Leilehua High, O`ahu
McKinley High, O`ahu
Nānākuli High and Intermediate, O`ahu
Roosevelt High, O`ahu

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