A woman sits on a rollator mobility device. She is surrounded on both sides by the windows of an indoor walkway. She is looking at the camera smiling with her hands clasped together. She has auburn hair, glasses and is wearing a black.

When children learn new skills, they also build independence, confidence and self-esteem.  That’s the idea of a joint program initiative developed by the Division of General Surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital and the University of Toronto resident UpSURGE group.

UpSURGE is a mentorship program aimed at stimulating interest, providing support, and guiding underrepresented students in pursuing surgical careers.

Before the summer break, a group of students from Norman Ingram Public School in Toronto spent the day with surgeons and residents learning about the roles of a surgical care team.

“The main goal of this program was to allow a class of grade five students to experience what a career in nursing, surgery and anesthesiology would be like,” said Dr. Erin Kennedy, Head of the Division of General Surgery at Mount Sinai. “It also provided a high quality and interactive experience for them.”

The main benefit of the program was to plant what Dr. Kennedy called “an early seed” in the minds of the students about a future career working in surgery.

“Children learn science through trial and error,” said Mary Innocente, a teacher at Norman Ingram Public School. “They need time to experiment, try things out and think on their own.”

The program was designed to give the students an opportunity to interact with surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists in a hospital setting.

“Some of these kids have a fear of hospitals because of the pandemic and seeing their parents worry along with all the media coverage over the last few years,” said Mary. “We hope this event will ease that anxiety for them.”

As part of the day, the students would participate in four stations, laparoscopic box trainers, bowel anastomosis and skin stapling, airway and intubation and a laparotomy station allowing the students to learn about the role of a surgical nurse.

All the stations were created with the mindset of developing good hand-eye coordination, spatial processing and problem-solving skills.

“Learning new skills can be an important part of supporting overall development as well,” said Mary. “It is important for the kids to be able to see themselves in these roles, especially the girls. The goal is to start a conversation with the kids about possibilities in their future.”