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Learning through play part of Doctors’ Day celebration

Published on Monday, March 27, 2017

By: Annie Oeth,

Published in News Stories on March 27, 2017

Carter Griffin of Brandon had teeth on his mind Saturday. Specifically, happy ones and sad ones.

Dental students from the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry were helping him decide which plastic pretend foods - think broccoli and carrots - would make teeth happy and which foods would make them sad. The plastic frosted doughnut and artificial candy bar went into the sad tooth bag.

The lessons on having a healthy smile, along with trial-size tubes of toothpaste, were just part of the fun of Doctors' Day at the Mississippi Children's Museum. Part of Children's of Mississippi's participation in Question It? Discover It! Saturdays at the museum, the day included activities, information and interaction between medical professionals and kids and their families.

National Doctors Day is observed each year on March 30 as a way to recognize the service of physicians. The holiday was first marked May 9, 1933, the date being the same as the first use of general anesthesia in surgery in 1842. With the signature of President George Bush in 1990, Doctors Day was set for each March 30 as a national holiday.

Children's Heart Center administrator James Polson offers to let a Mississippi Children's Museum visitor try out a stethoscope during Doctors' Day.
Children's Heart Center administrator James Polson offers to let a Mississippi Children's Museum visitor try out a stethoscope during Doctors' Day.

During the Saturday celebration, the Children's Heart Center at Batson Children's Hospital was offering children everything from temporary tattoos to hearing their heartbeats and more.

"Our lessons are pretty versatile," said Children's Heart Center administrator James Polson. "We can teach simple lessons in heart health to younger children, and the older ones can learn more about the relationship between the heart and lungs and how the heart functions."

The main idea? "That you have to take good care of your heart by eating right and being active," Polson said. "Every time it beats is important, and it never gets a break, so it needs to stay healthy."

A grinning plush dinosaur and a smiling stuffed dog had sets of teeth that Maureen Malingkas, a third-year dental student, encouraged them to brush with jumbo-sized toothbrushes.

"I wanted to volunteer today," she said, "because I am interested in pediatrics and want children to be happy when they see the dentist."

"Abre, por favor," the bilingual Malingkas said playfully to a Spanish-speaking child doing a pretend teeth-cleaning on the big green T. Rex.

Doctors' Day is a perennial favorite at the museum, said Susan Garrard, president and CEO of the Mississippi Children's Museum.

"Doctors Day allows children to meet real doctors outside of a medical experience," she said. “Children can learn about careers and also be introduced to the different branches of medicine.  Many children have only seen a pediatrician, but this exposure can increase their interest and understanding of what doctors do every day. This collaboration between the museum and UMMC is important because it allows this special experience for children and families to take place in an inspirational and educational space with some of the leading doctors in our state.”

“I can't think of a better way to celebrate National Doctors Day than to encourage the next generation's interest in science and medicine,” said Dr. Rick Barr, Suzan B. Thames Professor and chair of pediatrics at UMMC.

Mari Ashlyn and Carter Griffin get a lesson in dentistry from Fawad.
Mari Ashlyn and Carter Griffin get a lesson in dentistry from Fawad.

Carter, 6, said his favorite part of the event was seeing the filling of a cavity on a model tooth. "I liked that the best because if I get a tooth filled, I will know what's happening."

At the neurology table, kids learned about their senses of sight, smell, touch and hearing, the latter demonstrated by watching glittery confetti stars bounce on plastic wrap stretched across a bowl when kids beat a metal pan with a spatula.

Margaret Deters, grandmother to Carter and Mari Ashlyn, 8, playing nearby, said she and husband Mike make sure to attend Doctors' Day each year. "It's really a great idea," she said. "The exhibits let kids play, touch and do, and that's how they learn."

Dr. Robert Annett, professor of pediatrics and director for research and education at UMMC's Center for the Advancement of Youth, was helping kids determine their dominant eye through simple hand-eye coordination tests. While the museum goers were entertained by the science, he did recommend a referral at least once that morning, letting a family know of something that needed to be checked.

"This is fun stuff," he said, "but we are also helping families connect with health care providers when needed. We're here today to help children and families. We're Batson Children's Hospital, and this is what we do."