Texas Tech University

The Nutrition & Metabolic Health Initiative (NMHI) Hosts High School Experience

Mallory Collins

July 19, 2022

nmhi host high school students

Lubbock high school students participate in a program to learn more about nutrition and metabolic diseases at Texas Tech

The Nutrition & Metabolic Health Initiative (NMHI) hosted the NMHI High School Experience, where local high school students were invited to participate in activities and demonstrations led by Texas Tech University faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students.

NMHI is a part of the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Human Sciences. It offers clinical services to the local community related to nutrition and metabolic health and conducts clinical research. NMHI provides TTU students with learning opportunities through hands-on experiences and uses outreach and engagement programs, like the NMHI High School Experience, to educate local students interested in the field.  

This unique program was developed to give high school students a glimpse of careers in healthcare, nutrition, and working with various lifestyle-associated diseases. This program aimed to inform students about the complexity of medical diseases and how multidisciplinary care teams work. Martin Binks, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition and Metabolic Health Initiative, gave some insight about the program. 

“This is a comprehensive and interactive educational experience that includes information about helping people achieve good nutrition, physical activity and healthy lifestyle patterns,” Binks said. “We teach them about the role of these things in diseases like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease and how this fits into broader medical treatments.”

The students gained hands-on experience by operating highly specialized equipment including the Metabolic Cart and BOD POD® machines that measure metabolism and body composition and were also taught to measure blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. The students learned valuable skills, including how to draw blood using a phlebotomy training arm. The NMHI high school experience was beneficial for students looking to enter healthcare careers, and they spoke about how this program helped them learn more.

“Not only did we learn about the machines and how they work, but we also learned about their importance, which is why I think this experience has been so valuable to me,” said Aarna Patel, local student that attended the NMHI High School Experience. “I think this knowledge can help anybody by integrating it into their lifestyle and can help people mentally and physically.” 

The students said it was fascinating to learn about all the different equipment used and learn how it can benefit others. Most of the students want to go into future careers as healthcare providers, so it was helpful for them to practice techniques and learn valuable information about the many areas of health and nutrition addressed by Nutrition and Metabolic Health Initiative's professionals. 

“We've learned that there is a whole new world regarding genetics and how it is related to nutrition and all the machines and new techniques in medicine being developed regarding nutrition,” said Aanya Reddy, local student that attended the experience. “Learning more about the causes and treatments can help us manage obesity and similar diseases in the future.” 

The experience allowed students to learn in a real healthcare setting with experienced professionals. Shannon Harris helped develop and coordinate the program and enjoyed working with NMHI undergraduate and graduate students to prepare content including a mix of presentations and hands-on applications. Harris shared her experience with the high school students.

“I was very impressed with their enthusiasm for science and the ideas they had for research studies,” Harris said. “I am excited to see where they go with their scientific research interest.” 

“Through our outreach and engagement programs including the High School Experience, our speaker programs, collaborations with HSC, UMC and other community partners, we engage the broader community, and we are training the next generation of healthcare providers,” Binks said.

The NMHI High School Experience is just one of many opportunities for community members to learn more about nutrition and metabolic diseases. This program plans to open to students across the Lubbock community in 2023.