“It was really gushing,” said Jackie Morales, 14.
She calmly pressed gauze into a gash in a squishy synthetic limb and pressed hard until the red liquid made from dyed dish soap stopped “bleeding.”
Then she giggled and screamed “ouch” as she and a partner practiced using tourniquets on their own arms.
Their medical instructors taught the eighth-graders that in order to stop a real wound from bleeding, the tourniquet would have to be painfully tight. The practice tourniquets did hurt. But in that moment, Morales had a great vision of her future.
“I’d really like to study medicine. This was fun,” she said.
Her classmate, Mari Prudenzio, 14, had a similar reaction.
“It felt terrible,” she said of the tourniquet. “It hurt like when they take your blood pressure.”
But she loved every minute of the “Stop the Bleed” lesson.
“I like the idea of saving lives,” said Prudenzio, who hopes to become a radiologist someday.
The girls’ dreams — and those of hundreds of other students at the school — now will be much easier to attain.
Aurora Science & Tech high school
Aurora Science & Tech (AST) is one of just six schools in the country to be located on the campus of an academic medical center. The school at 2450 N. Scranton St. is just blocks north of UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus. And on April 25, students and leaders from Aurora Science & Tech, Aurora Public Schools and UCHealth officially inaugurated the school’s new UCHealth Science + Innovation Labs, the result of a $250,000 donation in December, 2021 from UCHealth.
New partnerships will continue to flourish between Aurora Science & Tech students and medical experts.
Next year, a new building at the Aurora Science & Tech campus will open and the UCHealth labs will become part of the high school as the school grows into a 6-12 campus.
“All science classes will take place in these labs,” said Kryszelda Mendoza, Aurora Science & Tech’s founding school director. She will be head of the high school when it opens with ninth-graders this fall.
A middle and high school fostering medical professions
The school’s curriculum emphasizes science, technology, engineering and math — known as STEM courses — and Aurora Science & Tech will offer a hands-on biosciences elective class.
It will include case studies along with career exploration. Mendoza is eager to have students visit labs and the hospital while also bringing medical experts regularly to visit the school.
“Let’s make it come to life,” Mendoza said of health sciences.
Dr. Jean Kutner echoed Mendoza’s excitement about the new partnership.
Kutner is chief medical officer for UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and also serves on the board of DSST Schools, Aurora Science & Tech’s parent organization.
Teaching future leaders benefits the community
Kutner was thrilled to celebrate the official opening of the new labs.
“UCHealth his very focused on our community, especially our community here on the Anschutz Medical Campus,” Kutner said.
Kutner envisions endless opportunities for students to have unique and unprecedented experience like visiting labs, watching surgeries to gaining access to high-paying health care jobs.
Aurora Science & Tech opened during the pandemic and students first filled in the halls for in-person learning in January of 2021. The school is located in one of the most diverse and high-need areas of Aurora. Approximately 70% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch and 85% are students of color.
Aurora Science & Tech on the Anschutz Medical Campus is one of six schools in the U.S. located on a medical campus. The others are:
- DaBakey High School for Health Professionals, located on the Texas Medical Center Campus in Houston.
- Cleveland School of Science and Medicine, located on the Cleveland Clinic Campus.
- Columbia Secondary School, Adjacent to Columbia University in New York.
- Queens Gateway to Health Science Secondary School, adjacent to Jamaica Queens Hospital in New York.
- Geffen Academy at University of California Los Angeles.
“It’s very important to grow leaders in our own community. We want our workforce to reflect the community that we serve,” Kutner said.
Among other opportunities, Kutner anticipates providing certification programs for students who want “real world skills” in areas like phlebotomy or pharmacy technology in case they want to get health care jobs right out of high school. For other students who want to go on to college and beyond, connections with medical mentors will be invaluable.
Earlier on Monday, Dr. Abbey Lara shared her path. A pulmonologist and critical care doctor at University of Colorado Hospital, Lara spoke during the AST morning meeting. She is the daughter of immigrants from Mexico and was the first in her family to go to college. She went on to earn her medical degree and is now UCHealth’s medical director for health equity.
A lesson for middle and high school students: Learn ‘Stop the Bleed’ techniques and save lives
During the ‘Stop the Bleed’ lesson, students were wide-eyed as they listened to medical experts share stories about caring for hospital patients with bad wounds, like large pieces of glass stuck in their bodies.
Teaching the hands-on class were four experts from University of Colorado Hospital: Kit Lien, trauma and burn manager, Marc Scherschel, senior direct of pre-hospital care, Desmond McNeal, emergency medical services manager, and Laurie Lovedale, program manager for injury prevention.
While badly injured people typically need to get to an ER as fast as possible, bystanders often can provide critical care until an ambulance arrives.
The UCHealth experts taught the students how to pack a wound with gauze or any material they have with them and press down hard if blood is spurting out uncontrollably.
“Pressure is going to save a person’s life,” Lien said.
Added McNeal: “This is a science class. Let’s talk science. When you’re bleeding, your body can’t apply a clot. By applying pressure, you’re allowing your body to seal that wound and form that clot.”
While the students got to practice with rolls of white gauze, Lovedale pointed out that if students find themselves alone with someone who is bleeding profusely, they have all the tools they need to “stop the bleed.”
“You’ve got hands and clothing. You have the skills. You’ve got what you need to save a life,” Lovedale said.
Scherschel taught the students to stay calm, even if a wound is bleeding profusely, like a garden hose spraying out water. Bystanders should use any material they have — like a hoodie or t-shirt — to soak up blood and locate the source of the bleeding, then press down hard.
It’s also critical to call 911 and stay on the phone with emergency workers as long as necessary.
If a person is bleeding internally, there’s nothing a bystander can do but stay with the injured person. If a person has become impaled on an object or has been shot, it’s important not to pull out the object.
“What if you get a bullet in your body?” one student asked.
“Leave it there. Get help and call 911,” Lien answered.