What do a gastroenterologist, a cardiologist, a neuroscientist, a pulmonologist, a fitness expert, a nurse, a population biologist and two COVID-19 patients all have in common? They were all gracious enough to give of their time to answer questions from students in Dean Mohlman’s Biology I or Advanced Biology II classes during remote learning.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, Mohlman overheard his wife on a video call with a friend in New York, who was describing how she felt ill. “I realized it was very likely that my wife’s friend had coronavirus,” Mohlman explained. “I thought it would be fascinating for my students to interview this woman about her symptoms and decide for themselves if she had the disease.”
His students’ experience went so well that Mohlman reached out to an array of experts — many of whom are current Spartan parents or parents of alumni — to ask if they would join his classes to talk with students and answer their questions. “What followed was an amazing adventure in remote learning,” Mohlman said.
First up was Christopher Thu, M.D., (parent of Hunter ’21 and Carson ’23). Thu answered questions from students during a live-stream event about treating COVID-19 patients. Next came a population biologist to answer questions about the medical uses of horseshoe crab blood. Cardiologist David Kessler, M.D., (parent of Miriam ’20 Danielle ’17 and Rachel ’15) then answered questions about the circulatory system. Jodene Fine, Ph.D., (parent of Isaac ’09) a neuroscientist at Michigan State University, also joined the classes. She explained the complex changes that occur in the adolescent brain at the same time Mohlman’s students studied the nervous system. Finally, Robert Frachtman, M.D., (parent of Adrienne ’10 and Brandon ’05) a local gastroenterologist, took the students through a tour of the digestive system with fascinating explanations of cases that he has seen.
St. Stephen’s own staff also participated in these remote expert visits. Director of Health Services Gretchen McCracken Inman, M.S.N, R.N., (parent of Gatling ’24 and Addie ’26) spoke to Mohlman’s classes about the endocrine system and the school’s response to the pandemic. In addition, Strength and Conditioning Coach Jay Patterson showed students some exercises, live from the campus weight room, and discussed how muscles move bones. The talk was a great supplement to students’ examination of the muscular and skeletal systems.
Finally, an Austin-based friend of Mohlman, who was one of the first Travis County COVID patients, spoke with students as they studied the respiratory system. In addition to talking about the coronavirus, Mohlman’s friend, who has asthma, shared a remarkable story about donating 60 percent of his liver to his brother when he needed a transplant. Thankfully, he has fully recovered from the coronavirus.
“I would have never thought of giving my students these experiences if we had not gone to remote learning,” Mohlman said. “I am deeply indebted to the experts who spoke with my students and helped pique their interests in a wide range of topics.”
And the answer to the question about whether or not the first woman had COVID-19: She recently had an antibody test performed and tested positive. Fortunately, she has fully recovered.