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WesternU COMP welcomes Webb Schools anatomy students to campus

by Rodney Tanaka

March 21, 2024

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Second-year COMP student Jason Reiter (left) demonstrates Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) techniques on classmate Priyal Vaghasia to Webb students. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

About 35 junior and senior high school students from the Webb Schools visited Western University of Health Sciences March 6, 2024, to learn more about osteopathic medicine, anatomy and the WesternU campus.

COMP Assistant Professor Jessie Atterholt, PhD

The visit was orchestrated by WesternU College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) Assistant Professor Jessie Atterholt, PhD, who previously taught science courses at Webb. She invited students in the Webb anatomy and physiology classes to visit.

“I hope that they students not only gained a better understanding of anatomy in being able to see and to hold specimens from our prosection collection, but also that they now have an awareness of osteopathic medicine as a potential career path,” Atterholt said. “Additionally, the Webb Schools makes a strong effort to recruit a diverse group of students, many of whom are local to the area. By forming these early connections, I think we are making those interested in careers in medicine aware of COMP at an early stage. The hope is that they consider us down the line when they are applying to medical programs.”

The Webb students split up into three groups and rotated through three stations: a campus tour, COMP’s Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) Lab and the anatomy lab. Students learned about the parts of the brain and heart and held those organs in their hands in the anatomy lab.

Webb students try to determine the object hidden under slime using only their sense of touch. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

The WesternU visit provided Webb students with the opportunity to see some of the human tissues they often discuss in real life, said Webb Schools Science Teacher Brendan Beikmann, PhD.

“At Webb we can utilize other organs such as sheep brains and pig hearts to learn about anatomy, but experiencing those dissections just isn’t the same as identifying structures on human organs,” Beikmann said. “Additionally, this also allowed for the opportunity to learn about how bodies are donated for use in science and how scientists respect those individuals who have made this sacrifice. For the students interested in medical-related fields, I was hoping they would gain some insight into what they could expect to experience once they pursue those fields in college.”

Second-year COMP students Priyal Vaghasia and Jason Reiter quiz Webb students on different parts of human anatomy during a visit to WesternU Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

Second-year COMP students Jason Reiter and Priyal Vaghasia demonstrated OMM techniques and explained how OMM is used to treat a variety of common ailments. They hid breath mints, staples, and other objects under Ziplock bags filled with slime to test the Webb students’ ability to use their sense of touch to determine what was hidden underneath, similar to an osteopathic physician using their hands to diagnose and treat structural and functional issues in a patient’s body.

Beikmann said he wanted his students to learn about OMM and see how COMP students are trained in the field.

“It’s exciting for them to see how older students operate and promote the fact that these are viable areas for them to pursue as a career if they should so choose,” he said. “The primary reason I wanted our students to visit WesternU was to promote their excitement for anatomy and science. I wanted them to see the fantastic work you all do (at WesternU) so that they could better understand why studying the human body is so important for the future of medicine and human health. Seeing human organs and the work your COMP students were doing in a professional environment really drives home the fact that they could have a future in these fields if they want to after high school. This was a tremendous opportunity for us and I am extremely thankful to have been able to share this experience with our students!”

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