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Around 100 intermediate and high school students recently took part in interactive lectures and laboratory tours at the University of Otago, Wellington (UOW) as part of the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine's International Pathology Day celebrations.

Head of Department Dr Diane Kenwright says the aim of the educational sessions – held on 5 November - was to teach students more about pathology and encourage them to consider it as a career.

It was all about sparking their interest, and getting them excited about medical science and the human body.”

With the theme of this year's Pathology Day being “what is cancer and how do we identify it?”, the outreach was also an opportunity to raise health awareness and reinforce cancer-prevention messages, she says.

Visiting from Scots College, Wellington High School and South Wellington Intermediate, the students enjoyed a whirlwind tour of cancer biology and the role pathologists have in fighting the disease. They were introduced to pathology specialties including anatomic pathology, haematology, chemical pathology, microbiology, immunology and genetics. They were also given a tour of the Wellington Hospital Laboratory Biochemistry, Haematology, and Microbiology departments, to increase their awareness of the science behind medicine.

In a hands-on tutorial they looked at human organs (encased in a plastic sarcophagus) from UOW's Pathology Museum, seeing real human brains, livers, lungs, breasts, and looking at blood cells and cancer down microscopes.

“It was terrific to see the engagement and increased understanding of what cancer is, why it occurs, and how we identify it,” Diane says.

Feedback from the students and teachers was that the day was a great success, she says.

There was also much excitement at receiving gifts at the end including hand gel, 'syringe' pens, wristbands, balloons, and post-it notes, all of which were sponsored by the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia as part of International Pathology Day celebrations.

Diane attributes the success of the day to the enthusiasm of the Department of Pathology's staff, especially Vinko Besic who organised the schools liaison, and interactive laboratory tutors Catherine Lawson, Sara Filoche, Huib Buyck, Rachel Barber and Jane Anderson.

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