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Is There a Junior Doctor
in the House?
by Jennifer Boeth Donovan
The children's white starched lab coats rustle as they comb every inch of the model house. They are mini-médicos en acción—little doctors in action— and they're searching for "assassin bugs," the insects that transmit the parasite that causes Chagas disease.
This infectious illness, a killer and crippler in their homeland of Argentina and throughout Latin America, is just one of the health problems the 7- to 11-year-olds are learning to solve at an interactive exhibit called Mini-Médicos en Acción, which opened in May 2005 at the Museum of Natural History in Buenos Aires. Based on a science-education program created by the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, California, Mini-Médicos was adapted for Argentine children by HHMI international research scholar Mariano Jorge Levin, in collaboration with the Berkeley science museum and support from HHMI.
Levin was able to leverage HHMI's grant into additional funding from several public and private sources: CONICET, which is the Argentine government's main funding agency for science and technology education; the Fundación Mundo Sano, a healthcare foundation; the Argentine Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology; and Unisol Salud, a nonprofit physicians' organization that runs public health clinics.
Other Argentine international research scholars are helping to bring Mini-Médicos to other cities throughout the country, including Córdoba, Mendoza, Rosario, Santa Fe, and Usuahia. This hands-on exhibit is the second Latin American adaptation of the California program—HHMI international research scholar Rafael Radi first adapted it to Uruguay in 2003. HHMI international research scholar Susana López is developing a third version for Mexican children.
Illustration: Timothy Cooke