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NIAAA Hosts Baseball Star's Student Group
By Gregory Roa
NIAAA scientists recently played host to a visiting team called "Jeter's Leaders," a group sponsored by Derek Jeter, the all-star shortstop of the New York Yankees. Instead of baseball uniforms and gloves, the 10 high-schoolers donned lab coats, masks and latex gloves for a taste of the big leagues of scientific research at NIH.
The visit was arranged by Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reward young people who avoid alcohol and drugs and instead choose healthy lifestyles. Although the baseball star himself could not make this road trip, his mom pinch-hit as the head chaperone. Mrs. Jeter explained that the foundation selected the students from school programs in New York's inner-city neighborhoods to serve as "peer educators" who will report back to their classmates on their experiences at NIAAA.
Fred Donodeo of NIAAA's Office of Policy and Public Liaison coordinated the Apr. 24-25 visit and met the group as it arrived. A transplanted New Yorker himself, Donodeo remarked, "It was pretty neat to meet a bunch of kids wearing shirts and hats from all the teams I followed growing up the Jets, Knicks and, of course, the Yankees!"
Day one of the agenda featured a discussion about alcohol's effects on the body's systems led by Dr. Dennis Twombly, director of NIAAA's neurophysiology and pharmacology program; he is the creator of the "Drunken Brain" exhibit often displayed at NIH health fairs and other venues.
The following day, the group drove to Poolesville to visit NIAAA's Laboratory of Clinical Studies. Donning suitable garb, the students received a hands-on tour of the primate unit facility with postdoctoral fellows Christina Barr, Michelle Becker and Stephen Lindell. To conclude the visit, the students sat down with the scientists for a question-and-answer discussion about careers in science and alcohol research.
"It was somewhat typical of a group of teenagers," said Twombly. "At first it was hard to get a read on how much they were absorbing, but in the end they asked a number of very insightful questions." Donodeo added, "They really liked getting the behind-the-scenes tour, looking at real tissue samples and handling life-size models of the brain. Afterwards, a couple of students asked me about internships at NIH and scholarships for people who want to become scientists."
Before departing on the visitors' bus, the future prospects expressed their appreciation for the host team. "They all said they enjoyed the trip, and we certainly enjoyed their enthusiasm," said Donodeo. "You could say it was a win-win experience all around."
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