By Nikki Ross Inda
For the fifth consecutive year, Moffitt Cancer Center hosted its annual Healthy KIDZ Goes Pink program dedicated to teaching children about breast cancer during the month of October. This year’s event welcomed male students in what traditionally is a female centered educational program.
“The most important thing we can do for school-age kids through the Healthy KIDZ program is encourage them to take care of themselves, their family members and their friends,” said Bethany Niell, MD, PhD, Moffitt’s division chief of breast imaging. Niell spoke to nearly 100 students from Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy Middle School, Ferrell Girls Preparatory Academy Middle School and Redlands Christian Migrant Association Leadership Academy about mammography screenings and explained how the equipment can help save lives.
“I urged the kids to talk with their parents and visit their doctor if they ever feel any lumps or bumps on their body, or if they have something going on with their health that’s bothering them,” explained Dr. Niell. “This is an important message that kids of all ages can understand.”
Operating room nurses Sandy Hirsch and Christine Paton used their 20 years of combined experience to give the kids an overview of what it’s like in the OR. The pair stressed the importance of the preparation process before surgery to ensure that patient’s well-being and safety are top priority. The students watched a demonstration of the intuitive da Vinci® robotic surgical machine and had an opportunity to try on surgical gowns, masks and gloves.
“They loved learning about the variety of jobs at Moffitt,” said Kathy Wasserman, lead magnet teacher at Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy. “Some of the students who are afraid of blood were happy to learn that they could aspire to be a researcher, instead of working in an operating room. Breast cancer is a subject that is close to our hearts as one of our teachers was recently diagnosed.”
Another highlight of the day came from Joseph Johnson, analytic microscopy core facility manager in translational research. Johnson let the kids look at cancer cells under a high-powered microscope. Students described the experience as mind blowing.
Moffitt Cancer Center is committed to equipping generations of youth with the knowledge they need to pursue careers in STEM-science, technology, engineering and math.
Dr. Neill said it best, “I want kids to know that the choices they make now will impact their health in the future. This is true for cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and other diseases. Making good choices now will pay off later.”
“It’s always a privilege to be invited to participate in programs that showcase talented professionals,” said Wasserman. “It makes learning authentic. Students who are excelling in math and science can see that hard work pays off. I see some future Moffitt employees in the group.”
Moffitt Healthy KIDZ is a community outreach program for children and adolescents of all ages focusing on cancer prevention, healthy living and positive life choices. The program integrates a focus on nutrition, fitness, sun safety, the dangers of tobacco, the arts and careers in health care.