All hands on deck: co-op at the School of Anatomy

Kaija Donaldson (she/her) and Megan Davitsky (she/her) are both entering their third year of Kinesiology. Having completed their first two co-op terms at the School of Anatomy, Kaija and Megan discuss their work as anatomy program assistants, the positive impacts they have made on Waterloo youth and what they hope to accomplish in the future.   

Q&A with Kaija and Megan

Kaija and Megan posing with their arms crossed in their lab coats. What are your responsibilities at the School of Anatomy? 

Kaija and Megan’s work at the School of Anatomy is largely focused on community outreach. Currently, there are three outreach programs. The first program, Anatomy 101 is an on-campus workshop for high school students. The second, Anatomy 202, is an on-campus workshop delivered to healthcare practitioners looking to review their knowledge in anatomy. The third program, Anatomy on the Road, was created entirely by Megan and Kaija. Here’s what both students have to say on the new program:

“When we started working with the School of Anatomy we were asked to develop a program to deliver workshops within the Waterloo region. The goal of Anatomy on the Road was to create an educational experience for no or little cost to school-age students in lower-income districts.”

“Our main priority was to make a fun and educational experience accessible. For the elementary school students, we developed a workshop, Handy Guide, where we create a hand model with students to teach them how muscles move our body.”

“As for the high school students, we created a bone mapping workshop where we bring full-sized human skeleton models out to high schools to teach students how to build their own skeleton. This helps them learn more about how our bodies fit together and why we’re shaped the way we are.”

Since their return to the School of Anatomy in fall 2023, Megan and Kaija have successfully delivered the Anatomy on the Road program to 11 schools in the Waterloo community.  

Kaija and Megan smiling in front of their hand and human skeleton models. What skills have you developed at the School of Anatomy? 

“By learning anatomy and delivering these workshops to high schools and elementary schools, we get to share our knowledge with students. All of our volunteers are always excited to share what they know in a simplistic way so that everyone benefits from the School of Anatomy.”

Both students have had to learn to innovate and restructure their workshops on the fly.

“Everyone has different needs and capabilities, so we’ve had to make our programs functional to each group of students. One specific example is when creating the hand model, we used our hand. A university student’s hand versus a 10-year old’s hand is very different. We had to size it down and perform ‘surgeries’ with the students. They enjoyed that. It was good experience to work through a problem as it came up.”

“It’s important to be flexible and accept that things don’t always go exactly as you planned. We originally designed these workshops with very specific timing. Now that we've run these workshops from grades one to six, each grade has very different needs.”

How do your courses relate to your work at the Human Anatomy Dissection Lab?

“Taking previous courses, especially KIN 100L, helped me learn the knowledge before explaining it in simpler ways to students. I would also say using Microsoft Office in KIN 121L allowed us to advance our knowledge of technology. Since workplaces are becoming more technology focused, having confidence in using those platforms is useful.”

What was your favourite part of working at the Lab?

Megan’s favorite part of the job is the opportunity to learn something new every day.

“KIN 100L gave me a good foundation and appreciation of human anatomy. But since I started working in anatomy, I’ve realized how much more there is to learn. For example, through the Anatomy 202 program, we have healthcare practitioners coming in and sharing new things they’ve learned about the human body or a clinical application that I didn't know before. This has helped me relate anatomy—which I already love—to the real world.”

Kaija’s favourite part of working at the Lab is helping students understand new concepts.

“When we explain concepts to students and something clicks, you can see that ‘aha’ moment or that light bulb go off. It feels amazing to be the reason another student understands a concept better than they did before. It goes to show how we influence others.”

Kaija and Megan posing with a model skeleton.How has your co-op term with the School of Anatomy helped you decide the direction of your future career?

Working at the School of Anatomy has allowed Kaija to make valuable connections in the healthcare industry.

“Both co-op terms have helped with networking and hearing the experiences of professionals. Networking with healthcare providers and asking them questions to learn what they do behind the scenes has steered me towards rehabilitation and physiotherapy.”

Megan has found that working at the lab has increased her curiosity in the field of anatomy.

“Working at the School of Anatomy has shown me that I want to learn all there is to know about human anatomy, alongside how it relates to physiology and disease. Right now, I'm leaning towards pursuing a career in medicine because I feel like this is like a good intersection point between anatomy, physiology, and community service that I've learned from running our outreach programs. I like relating the human body to everyday life and finding solutions to improve health, fitness and overall quality of life.”

Do you have any advice for students looking for co-ops with the Faculty of Health?

According to Kaija, co-op is the time to learn what kind of work you enjoy.

“It was little bit overwhelming going into co-op applications and interviews for the first time. I would say, step outside your comfort zone and apply to jobs that sound interesting. This is the time to do it! Figure out what you do and don't like because when you finish school, you'll know more about the pathway you want to take for your career.”

Megan encouraged incoming students not to sell themselves short and focus on skills that set them apart.

“I think it's important that prospective co-op students know their own worth before coming to work. I felt like I didn't have enough experience to be remotely useful in a job like this, but over the last two work terms, I've learned that I have valuable skills. Don't stop yourself from applying for a job that you think you'd like just because you don't think you're perfect. You never know what you might be great at.”

What’s next?

Wall art at the School of Anatomy.While both Kaija and Megan have enjoyed working at the School of Anatomy, they plan on exploring future co-op roles in a clinical environment. After graduation, both students are planning to pursue a master’s degree.

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