Nearly 50 students from Ramona High School converged on the San Diego Natural History Museum for a tour of the human body on Saturday.
The biology students, accompanied by cardiologists from Palomar Pomerado Health (PPH), attended the Body Worlds exhibit in Balboa Park.
PPH cardiologists Dr. Robert Stine and Dr. Dan Mulvihill led the students through the exhibit as discussions were held about heart disease, obesity, smoking and various other topics, depending on the body part(s) on display.
The tour was an hour before the doors were opened to the general public so the cardiologists could provide detailed information in a classroom-like setting.
“It is a perfect venue for what my class is all about,” said Steve Pettis, Ramona High School sports medicine teacher. “This is a way for the students to not only see anatomy from the inside out, but also to see where injuries occur and how they happen. The students get to see body position as if in movement—not just a static model. This is awesome.”
Eleventh-grader Travis Gallegos agreed. “It is interesting to see how our body works and is formed and not just only in a textbook.”
Haeley Donovan, also a junior at RHS, liked the cross sections the best.
“It is really interesting,” Donovan said, giggling, “and convenient, too. It would be so labor intensive and messy to do it ourselves!”
Students walked as if mesmerized through the exhibit, asking questions about smoking and lung function the most. Staring at a lung that had been blackened over years of smoking, students saw the evidence of a healthy lung sitting right next to it. Murmurs rippled through the group of students as Mulvihill answered questions about the blackened lung and the link between smoking and cardiac problems later in life.
“Smoking at 17, by the time you are 50, I would say doubles your chance of having a heart attack,” the cardiologist said.
Some students registered shock, some voiced concerns and asked questions, but none seemed indifferent.
Mulvihill stressed to the students the importance of even young adults knowing the warning signs of cardiac problems.
“A skinny person can be more ‘at risk’ than an obese one if the genetic predisposition is there,” explained Mulvihill. “If anyone is having sudden chest pain during exertion (like walking uphill), you need to get it checked out. You don’t have to be old or obese to have heart problems.”
According to Mulvihill, at the sudden onset of chest pain it is important to call 911 so paramedics can begin necessary procedures on the spot that could save a person’s life. “Dial—don’t drive.”
PPH approached Body Worlds with the idea of having cardiologists speak with a group of students from an underserved area, said Dan Flores, Body Worlds San Diego media and communications manager.
PPH spokesman Andy Hoang explained that, by providing free transportation and admission, PPH’s health network in conjunction with Body Worlds’ Matters of the Heart gave Ramona students a way to learn about the body and its various organ systems in a unique way. Among topics the cardiologists discussed during the tour were the functions of the heart, the importance of leading a healthy lifesty and childhood obesity.
Exhibits in Body Worlds come from the Institute for Plastination’s body donation program. A German anatomist, Dr. Gunther von Hagens, began the plastination process in 1983. Plastination is a year-long process in which real bodies and/or body parts are preserved by replacing the “bodily fluids and soluble fats” in a specimen with plastics. Once treated, complete bodies are placed in “action” poses (like swinging a baseball bat or skate-boarding) with muscles and internal organs exposed.
The Body Worlds exhibit ends Oct. 4.
San Diego Natural History Museum is at 1788 El Prado in Balboa Park. For tickets, call the San Diego Natural History Museum at 877-946-7797 or go online to www.bodyworlds.com for more information.