Children performing chemistry experiement When a child is admitted to the hospital, you can usually count on three things. Time seems suspended. There’s often apprehension. And there’s seldom enough to keep a child’s curious mind occupied and his or her spirits lifted.

Family members are present and the hospital’s medical staff is focused on providing medical care—both of which are critically important. Yet many hospitals lack the resources to offer enough recreational activities to keep the minds of their youngest patients engaged.

Helping fill the gap is Project TEACH (Together Educating All Children in Hospitals), founded in the spring of 2013.

TEACH is a joint Einstein and Yeshiva University undergraduate student-run initiative under the guidance of Einstein’s executive dean, Edward Burns. It allows students to plan and lead educational lessons and modules in hospital playrooms.

Fun lessons in the hospital
Here’s how it works. Volunteers come to the hospital prepared with fun and educational modules. The sessions are designed to give children a healthy activity while also spurring their interest in learning.

There are about 14 different modules each month, and each has anywhere from 1 to 35 child patients in attendance. The sessions provide parents and guardians comfort; they know their children can keep their minds engaged while their bodies are being treated.

Popular modules include an egg-drop experiment where the objective is to protect an egg from a fall; making materials like Silly Putty; and telling stories through artwork. These lessons are fun and distract the children’s minds from the sometimes difficult treatments they face.

It’s interesting to watch how the same experiment can have different meanings for different groups and ages of children. For example, when we do an experiment that creates color by adding a substance to a liquid mixture, the older children apply what they have learned about acids and bases while the younger kids just have a good time mixing the solutions and guessing if the indicator is going to turn red or blue.

Training the next generation
Project TEACH extends its influence beyond the hospital walls. Through TEACH, Einstein and Yeshiva students interact with diverse local high school students who are part of the Einstein Enrichment Program.

We train these students how to prepare and demonstrate the TEACH modules. This allows them to volunteer at hospitals while providing a unique leadership opportunity. They get a chance to do science experiments with the kids. Many of the high school students have an interest in research or medicine. We see TEACH as a great way to encourage their career pursuits.

TEACH ran its pilot program in the spring of 2013 at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and has since grown greatly, with almost 300 volunteers operating in an additional seven hospitals and facilities: Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Mount Sinai Beth Israel (EEG unit), Jacobi Medical Center, NewYork–Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork–Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NYU Langone Medical Center and Einstein’s Rose F. Kennedy University Center.

We see this growth as a tremendous sign of the need for Project TEACH and hope it will expand further, helping both the students who teach and the children whose lives the program enriches. 

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Ebola Virus at 108,000 MagnificationThe deadly outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa is the worst on record, with over 603 deaths reported as of July, 12, 2014 (according to the CDC Ebola outbreak update). The virus is confirmed in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone ─ and the crisis appears to be far from over. [click to continue…]

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vials with clear liquid in a row with a syringe

Few medical interventions have been as successful as vaccines in improving public health.

Whether they are childhood vaccinations, vaccines to prevent healthy adults from contracting influenza or the more recent HPV vaccine for adolescents, these preventive methods have resulted in dramatic benefits for individuals and the public. We have only to think of the eradication of smallpox and the virtual eradication of poliomyelitis to see the enormous benefits vaccines can bring. But at what financial cost—now and in the future? [click to continue…]

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Caregiver reading a bookEvery month I walk up to Pelham Parkway in the Bronx and ride the Bx12 select bus to the Fordham section to visit my patient. She is a warm-hearted, middle-aged woman who has multiple chronic medical conditions and no longer works as a result. She spends her time watching her neighbor’s children and involving herself heavily in her church community.

During our visits, I spend time listening to her—developing a patient-based narrative history of her life that is revealed though stories about how she manages her chronic medical conditions, and about her involvement in the local church. I’ve really gotten to know what’s important to her as a patient and as a person. [click to continue…]

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Stem Cell Image - Image credit: Erika Pedrosa, M.S.

Close up of iPSCs – Image by: Erika Pedrosa, M.S.

Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have long held great promise in medical research because they are pluripotent—able to differentiate into any of the more than 100 types of tissue in the body.

In 2001, ethical concerns over obtaining these cells from human embryos led the U.S. government to limit the use of hESCs. The discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) by Shinya Yamanaka, M.D.—a Japanese researcher who won the Nobel Prize and spoke at Einstein about his work—greatly boosted the field of stem cell research. iPSCs are grown from adult human skin cells, so their use doesn’t raise ethical concerns.

Einstein scientists are using iPSCs to advance knowledge of conditions including autism, Parkinson’s and schizophrenia at our Gottesman Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research. The institute has a Pluripotent Stem Cell Unit, which creates iPSCs for the Einstein research community and trains people to work with these stem cells. [click to continue…]

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