Girl in DriverLab at TR
Ella Wong takes DriverLab for a spin at the iDAPT (Intelligent Design for Adaptation, Participation and Technology) Centre for Rehabilitation Research at Toronto Rehab. (Photo: UHN)

Some cooked, while others test drove a car, practiced suturing or packaged medications using candies.

These were just some of the diverse activities undertaken yesterday by about 200 Grade 9 students – all sons and daughters of employees – who participated in UHN's 12th annual Take Our Kids to Work Day.

"We went and saw the computers and technology that is used here and I just thought it was so cool," Miriam Rees-Sloman said at Toronto Western Hospital (TW).

"I got to walk around the entire hospital and see everything that goes on. I really like hearing about all of the different options here."

Volunteer Resources across UHN, in partnership with staff from clinical, administrative and research departments, prepared an amazing day that gave the students a glimpse into healthcare professions, state-of-the-art technology utilized in patient care and some of the work and research occurring here.

Take Our Kids to Work Day was founded in 1994 by The Learning Partnership, a national charitable organization promoting and supporting publicly-funded education in Canada. It began in the Greater Toronto Area but now spans the country and happens in November every year.

It began at UHN as a corporate initiative in 2006 under the leadership of Emma Pavlov, EVP Human Resources/Organizational Development and Michener Operations.

Group focused on research discussion
Students donned eye gear, lab coats and gloves on a visit to a lab at the Krembil Research Institute at Toronto Western Hospital. (Photo: UHN)

At the different sites yesterday, the Grade 9 students began their day in a similar fashion with an introduction and orientation to UHN. Each site then offered different glimpses into a day at UHN.

Through hands-on activities, demonstrations, presentations, simulations, video, role-playing and discussion with clinical and non-clinical staff, the students were able to get a sense of the diversity of roles within healthcare and at Canada's largest research hospital.

"It's a great opportunity to be here," Ronald Ramos Gomez said after a tour of iDAPT at Toronto Rehab. "I've found it all very interesting."

The Grade 9 students participated in wide range of activities over the course of the day.

Due to the intense renovation project in full swing at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, the students shared their morning with the students at Toronto Rehab as part of the Youth Outreach Program. 

This combined program provided the students, under the leadership of some passionate and talented researchers, with an up close and personal look at iDAPT.  A tour of the research areas revealed new technologies and strong impact of advances in technology on rehabilitation and overall treatment of patients.

The two groups shared lunch together with an enthusiastic exchange about their experiences that morning.

The Princess Margaret students then spent the afternoon learning about the breadth of the cancer programs available to patients, both clinical and supportive, such as radiation, chemotherapy. 

They visited such unique areas as the Radiation Medicine Program, Facilities Management, the Wig Salon, and ELLICSR: Health, Wellness and Cancer Survivorship Centre, where they were treated to a nutritional cooking demonstration by Chef Geremy.

Grade 9 student Haban
Grade 9 student Haban (L) helps wellness chef Geremy Capone in the ELLICSR Kitchen make avocado, coconut and mango ice cream. (Photo: UHN)

In Medical Imaging, they played a fun game using slides to show all the different objects that people have swallowed and how various types of medical imaging are used to help provide a diagnosis.  

At Toronto Rehab, the students were then able to share their afternoon with Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Therapeutic Recreation.  They had the opportunity to test their response rate just like elite athletes, participate with Therapeutic Recreation in a therapeutic activity, learn how to make a splint, and see firsthand the miracles that are performed in the lives of the patients in Rehab. 

Feedback from students was immediate and extremely positive. 

"I'm interested in possibly studying robotics and engineering, so I thought DriverLab in the iDAPT Lab was cool," said Aaron, whose father is a radiation therapist at the Princess Margaret. "I also like cooking, so learning to make ice cream and how to cut an avocado properly was interesting."

Across Toronto General and Toronto Western, groups of students visited the Medical Laboratory Program, rotating through Surgical Pathology, Immunohematology and Core Lab. 

Some students spent time with Nursing, the various Allied Health professions such as Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Speech Language Pathology, Respiratory Therapy, Nutrition, Social Work and Pharmacy. 

Group shot of students in Medical Devices
Medical Devices Reprocessing Department supervisor Jake Cajilig (L) explains to students at Toronto General how equipment, instruments and supplies get prepared before surgery. (Photo: UHN)​

In Nursing they discussed the different roles within the profession, opportunities for research and teaching, the various clinical environments, the utilization of technology and the impact of new technologies on the profession. 

Students who were exposed to the various Allied Health professions, utilized different equipment in a rehab gym, learned about different food textures, intubation and the packaging of medications using candies as well as how to make a cream.

Those who visited the Medical Devices Reprocessing Department (MDRD), Nuclear Cardiology and Neuro-Psychology learned about the different modes of sterilization for instruments used in the OR, discussed the effects on a patient who underwent deep brain stimulation and viewed images of a heart pre and post a heart attack.  

"I learned that it is a big long process to get everything ready before a surgery," student Brooke Denomme-Warren said after visiting MDRD and learning about equipment sterilization and packaging. "I never imagined that you'd have to go over all this to get the instruments and materials ready.

"I imagined it was simpler getting the patient into the OR, but it's really fascinating."

A number of students spent time with Medical Imaging, Medical Engineering, Telehealth, Human Factors and Techna where they learned about biomedical devices and technology, imaging technology, the way technology is used to provide healthcare and education to patients when large distances separate clinicians and patients, and the overall positive impact that technology is having on healthcare.  

Other students learned about transplantation while those who rotated through the Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis Program and Hand Program had the opportunity to make splints and casts as well as view computer simulations.  

Showcasing a diversity of roles in healthcare at UHN

Those who visited the OR at TW participated in a laparoscopic simulation, practiced suturing and learned about anatomy, while students who spent time with the Community and Mental Health Program discussed mental health issues and visited an addictions centre.   

Researchers at TG and TW explained computer simulations, and provided the students with insights on medicinal chemistry, computational neuroscience, NMR Spectroscopy, imaging, and traditional/non-traditional science careers.

Through hands on activities, demonstrations, presentations, simulations, video, role playing and discussion with clinical and non-clinical staff, the Grade 9 students were able to get a sense of the diversity of roles and professions within healthcare.

A special thank you to all staff involved at UHN in planning the day, taking time out of their busy schedules to teach, inspire and excite a new generation of students about healthcare and how their roles impact the patients that come through our doors. 

And a final thank you to the staff in Volunteer Resources and Human Resources, to Core Catering, to Support Services, (Laundry), IPAC, Shoppers Drug Mart, and the Volunteers and Human Resources interns who assisted and made the day so successful.​

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