Brainworks Program gives Los Angeles students chance to examine the brain

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It's not always easy to find your life's passion, but hundreds of Los Angeles area seventh and eighth graders got to see what it would be like to be a brain surgeon.

Many of the students were inspired to follow in the footsteps of a famous neurosurgeon.

Students used the technology brain surgeons use in the operating room. But don't worry - the students didn't use a real brain, instead they used a cherry as a tumor in a brain made of cherry Jell-O.

"We had to remove the tumor from the brain and it was cool," seventh-grader Paloma Lefriant said.

Students from several L.A. area schools worked alongside Cedars-Sinai neurosurgeons at the 19th annual Brainworks Program. It was an opportunity to get students thinking about their future.

"This isn't about getting students to really become a brain surgeon, or a neurologist, or a neuroscientist. It's about having them find their passion," said Dr. Keith Black, neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Black told students he started the program in 1998 after having a similar experience as a child.

"I got a chance to actually go to one of the hospitals in Cleveland and listen to a brain surgeon talk," he said.

Seventh-grader Jasmine Brown said Black's speech was inspirational because she wants to become a doctor when she's older.

A one-day, once-a-year program can really influence a child for a lifetime, but Black said he'd like to see kids benefit from an even longer mentoring experience.

"I wish we could do it six weeks a year, eight weeks a year. And I would love to see other medical centers and other hospitals really start very similar programs," he said.

Dissecting a sheep's brain helped students see what parts of the organ make learning possible.

"They love the work stations, being able to do a simulated brain operation on an $800,000 microscope," Black said.

Student Linus Stroettel, from Lycee Francais de Los Angeles, said he learned quite a bit about the brain from that experience.

"I knew that the brain was mostly gooey and stuff, but I didn't know it was that easy to mostly break," he said.

For students: each exhibit opened a whole new world to explore and it's a universe mentors want to share.
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