U of M Mini Medical School back

By Kathy Henderson

When the University of Minnesota launched its Mini Medical School program 25 years ago, it was a series of hands-on sessions at the Moos Tower on the East Bank campus.

The initiative attracted a sizeable audience of mostly faculty and staff and their family members plus some students and a scattering from the community, people who could get away from work or studies and wanted to know more about physical health without doctor appointments or the medical school jargon.

No one back then would have predicted the Covid pandemic and that the popular in-person sessions would morph so successfully to the virtual Zoom format.

Those who have been following the twice-a-year (spring, fall) web series will be pleased to hear that it will resume soon.

Those who never heard of it can catch up on past topics including “Food, Nutrition and the Effects of Substance on Health” (October 2023), “Aging and Health” (April 2023) and much more at https://clinicalaffairs.umn.edu/mini-medical-school.

“We are currently in planning mode for the spring 2024 series,” Gao Vang, communications project manager of the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs, said in a recent email. “We have not yet finalized programming, but we are aiming for three weeks in April-May.”

The title was also tentative at that time, but Vang expected it to be “Mind Matters: The Brain and Mental Health.”

“We will explore basic brain function and development, mental health, and aging across developmental stages,” she wrote.

Vang confirmed the format will be the same as in the past — three sessions with various speakers.

If you are unable to watch the original program, Vang noted each webinar will be recorded and available online the day after each live presentation. Again, this was something never thought possible 25 years ago when Dr. Greg Vercellotti, professor of medicine at the U’s Medical School, piloted the concept in 1999.

Three hundred people attended the first Mini Medical School, the Minnesota Daily newspaper reported at that time. “. . . wearing rubber gloves, participants were able to inspect real brains, lungs and even a heart.” Webinar access has made the need for rubber gloves obsolete and the lengthy waitlist disappear. 

Kathy Henderson lives in St. Paul and is a Bugle freelance writer.

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