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Vol. LXIV, No. 20
September 28, 2012

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‘Jeter’s Leaders’ Return to NIH
Teens Team Up with NIH Scientists to Explore the Developing Brain

Jeter’s Leaders visited NIAAA’s Laboratory of Molecular Physiology.

Jeter’s Leaders visited NIAAA’s Laboratory of Molecular Physiology.

Photo: Fred Donodeo

For Derek Jeter and his New York Yankees teammates, the dog days of summer usually mean it’s time to make another run at the pennant. But for Jeter’s Leaders—the baseball star’s teen outreach program—it’s time for another road trip to NIH. For over a decade, NIAAA has arranged site visits to Bethesda for the group. Recently, nearly 100 high schoolers from Michigan and New York came to campus to meet NIH scientists and to explore research on alcohol and the developing brain.

It was the largest contingent of participants to date, according to NIAAA public liaison officer Fred Donodeo. He started the collaboration in 2001 with a call to the Turn 2 Foundation, Jeter’s charity organization. The leadership program promotes social activism, academics and healthy lifestyles free of alcohol and substance use.

The students enjoyed a full day of science-based activities and presentations. Donodeo led things off with an NIH overview, followed by a Clinical Center tour with Greg Roa. Dr. Dan Falk from NIAAA’s Division of Treatment and Recovery Research led a question-and-answer session with the group.

Next, the students watched videos on underage drinking and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Then Donodeo threw the high schoolers a change-up: he challenged them to record their own short videos about what they had learned. “Everyone had a lot of fun in front of the camera and many of the kids did an impressive job voicing the importance of healthy choices,” said Donodeo.

The tour continued with an additional round of meetings with experts, including two guest speakers. Dr. Judith Arroyo, NIAAA coordinator for minority health and health disparities research, gave a bilingual presentation and led a discussion about science careers. Dr. Fumihito Ono arranged a behind-the-scenes tour of NIAAA’s Laboratory of Molecular Physiology. Dr. Dennis Twombly of NICHD presented his popular interactive exhibit, the “Drunken Brain.” Archie Fobbs, the neuroanatomical collections manager for the National Museum of Health and Medicine, provided a hands-on demonstration with specimens from the world’s largest brain collection.

The day ended with an athletic activity. The students attempted to play a carnival game while wearing specially designed goggles that simulate the impairment caused by drinking.

Derek Jeter summed up the value of the site visits in a press release. He wrote, “It is extremely important that our Jeter’s Leaders are properly educated about the negative impact of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.” He added that his foundation’s collaboration with NIAAA offered the teens “the opportunity to learn about the effects of alcohol and strategies to educate their peers and younger students.”

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