Note: Nora Franco and Naomi Bishop also contributed to the following post.
Nora Franco, Consumer Health Librarian, and Kelli Ham, Community Engagement Librarian for NNLM PSR, both attended the 5th annual Connect2STEM event at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. The event is officially the largest STEM-related event held in downtown Phoenix on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus. The scope and scale of the event allowed Nora and Kelli to provide outreach in several of PSR’s program areas, including consumer health, citizen science, and the All of Us Research Program.
Consumer Health Outreach
Nora staffed an exhibit table for the University of Arizona Health Sciences Library with Librarian Naomi Bishop and intern Kelley Howard. Naomi and Kelley designed a quiz to promote health literacy skills and a very popular zine-making station to engage with the families and exhibit visitors. The event provided the community with opportunities to interact with simulated medical environments such as hospitals and surgical centers, as well as witness live dissections on cow eyeballs and hearts! Many families had elementary age children, but there were activities for all ages, including infants, toddlers, and teens. One grandparent who filled out a comment card at the end of the day stated:
“It was great that the different exhibits appealed to all ages. My grandkids were 5 years, 7 years and 9 years, and it was appropriate for all. The teaching demonstrations were out of this world. Everything was well thought out and the demonstrators did an excellent job explaining things.”
Exhibit visitors learned about MedlinePlus and the use of consumer health information, and the event was a great opportunity for the community to learn about health sciences librarianship. Many of the teens and young adults were very interested in the sciences or research but not necessarily set on becoming a healthcare professional. When presented with the idea of becoming a health sciences librarian working with researchers and health information, their eyes lit up! Overall, the Connect2STEM was a unique opportunity to engage youth of all ages and let them experience the wonders of STEM hands-on, encouraging them to one day pursue a degree or occupation in one of the related fields.
Citizen Science and the NIH All of Us Research Program
Connect2STEM was the perfect opportunity to introduce the concept of citizen science and how lay people without a science background can participate in meaningful research. Arizona State University librarian Dan Stanton joined Kelli at the booth to showcase citizen science kits and to highlight several health-related projects on SciStarter for Citizen Science Month in April. Exhibit visitors were excited about the projects and to learn that many of the kits are available for check out at several public libraries in the greater Phoenix area.
In addition to citizen science materials, Kelli provided information about precision medicine, All of Us, Genetics Home Reference, and MedlinePlus. The exhibit was situated next to the All of Us Arizona table, providing the opportunity to reinforce related concepts and distribute informational handouts and brochures. Visitors were intrigued and interested in contributing to research, healthy communities, and learning more about their own health.
The Connect2STEM event was a highly successful outreach event. Traffic to the two separate booths was non-stop the entire day, reaching at least 250 visitors. Many thanks to our network member librarians Naomi Bishop and Dan Stanton in helping us achieve our outreach goals!