Future Problem Solvers competitors explore UNMC

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC strategic communications | May 27, 2022

Image with caption: Front row left to right are: Grayson Oswald, Lilian Ramaekers, Dillon Karr, Jaxon Slagle. Middle row: Jessica Mikkelsen, Willa Sharp, Max Penner, Kayden Crosby. Back row: Annie Linehan, Daniel Helzer, Shawn Morris, Josie Daugherty, Wyatt Heiss

Front row left to right are: Grayson Oswald, Lilian Ramaekers, Dillon Karr, Jaxon Slagle. Middle row: Jessica Mikkelsen, Willa Sharp, Max Penner, Kayden Crosby. Back row: Annie Linehan, Daniel Helzer, Shawn Morris, Josie Daugherty, Wyatt Heiss

As a Future Problem Solver competitor, Daniel Helzer, 18, hoped to glean as much information as possible from his May 20 visit to UNMC. 

"It’s definitely a big advantage to our team to hear from experts who work in the fields we are studying for our competition," Helzer said.

Helzer and his team, a total of 18 youths ranging in age from 12 to 18, will represent Aurora Public Schools in June at the Future Problem Solvers international competition at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass. 

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Wyatt Heiss, left, and Annie Linehan listen to a presentation during a visit to UNMC.

The students qualified for the international problem-solving competition by winning Nebraska's State Bowl in April. Antibiotic resistance is one of the topics they are studying, and they came to UNMC to hear from infectious disease physicians, pharmacists and microbiologists to help answer the group’s questions in preparation for their international competition. 

Along with taking a tour of the Wigton Heritage Center, the students heard presentations from Kelly Cawcutt, MD, Laura Selby, MD, Molly Miller, PharmD, and Paul Fey, PhD. 

"We were so fortunate to have the opportunity to spend so much quality time with each of our speakers, who somehow managed to convey complicated information effectively to a range of students with widely varying background knowledge," said Gennevieve Weiss, a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing with Aurora Public Schools and the team’s coach. 

"I knew we had some incredible health care providers and instructors at UNMC, but I didn't expect an entire day of presentations that were so accessible to young students while still being challenging to our older kids and spot-on-topic with what we needed to explore," Weiss said. 

Future Problem Solvers competitor Willa Sharp, 18, agreed. 

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Dillon Karr looks at a display in UNMC's Wigton Heritage Center.

"It’s helpful to hear about the real-world application of the topic we are exploring from the researchers and health care professionals who are dealing with antibiotic resistance day to day," Sharp said. 

Sharp said she was particularly interested in learning about the applicability of viral vaccines and the viability of using antibiotics to treat viral infections or prevent infections. 

In the end, Helzer said the visit enhanced the students’ understanding of the topic of antibiotic resistance and provided some potential viable solutions to explore at the international competition. 

The UNMC College of Medicine DEI Office and UNMC Office of Rural Health Initiatives collaborated to make this opportunity possible for the Aurora visitors.

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