St. Ambrose students use computer coding lessons to create medical apps
By Colette M. Jenkins
Beacon Journal staff writer
BRUNSWICK: Tori Lawrence, 13, hopes that her medical app can someday save a life.
“High blood pressure is serious and can cause a lot of health problems,” said Tori, who will be in eighth grade this fall. “This app can help alert doctors when patients are in hypertension and possibly save a life.”
Tori’s Blood Pressure Data Collection App is one of three medical apps created by computer coding students at St. Ambrose Parish School that were recently presented to three Cleveland Clinic doctors. As a result of the presentations, Tori and the other students — Hunter Velasquez, James Zielinski and Jacob Nose — were awarded weeklong computer science summer internships at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland.
“It was amazing to see them present their ideas to the doctors,” said Lori Schlueter, computer coding teacher at St. Ambrose. “I was really impressed that they were willing to ask for suggestions about how to make their apps better. I am so proud of their accomplishments.”
All of the apps were designed to increase communication between doctors and patients and to help patients better access medical information.
Tori’s app allows patients and caregivers to automatically send blood pressure measurements to a doctor. It also alerts the patient and caregiver if the blood pressure measurement falls within the hypertension I and II levels.
Hunter’s CancerCOM Health App helps patients learn more about leukemia and breast, colon, lung, pancreatic and prostate cancers. It also allows them to find, learn more about and contact specialists and includes an interactive map to direct patients to cancer treatment facilities.
“It’s a good way to easily contact a doctor and find out more about what’s ailing you and where you can go to get help,” said Hunter, who will attend St. Edward High School as a freshman in the fall. “I got some really good feedback from the doctors to make my app better, like including more information about treatments and helping patients connect to treatment specialists, like radiologists and surgeons.”
James and Jacob, both of whom will be seventh graders this fall, agreed that the feedback from the doctors was helpful. The two boys worked together to create the Medical Data Health App.
Their app allows patients to contact doctors via text and a speech recognizer that includes a translator for Spanish-speaking patients. It includes a camera that can be used to send doctors photos of symptoms, like a rash.
“It would be good to expand the app to include more languages and we’re thinking about adding a video conferencing capability,” said James, 12. “The doctors suggested that this might be a good app for people who don’t like to go to the doctor.”
James’ partner Jacob quickly added that the app would be ideal for senior citizens.
“A lot of really old people don’t like to go to the doctor… people close to 80 [years old],” said Jacob, 12. “They might not go because they think they’ll be OK, but this app is a way for them to contact the doctor without getting in their car and driving to the office. The doctor can give them a diagnosis and keep things from getting severe.”
The three doctors who reviewed the apps — Drs. Bradley Weinberger, Genevive Falconi and Elizabeth Salay — said they were impressed by the students’ creativity.
“It was a treat to review the projects completed by the students from St. Ambrose,” said Salay, an internal medicine physician. “I am impressed with the students’ attention to detail and thoughtfulness in the coding process, their understanding of various diseases, and their professionalism during the presentations.”
Falconi, a pediatrician, added, “The students have great imagination and passion. St. Ambrose school students are extremely fortunate to have the coding school program and have experience in this exciting area of critical thinking. The presenters are the future Zuckerbergs!”
The coding program was established and implemented this school year by Lin St. James of Brunswick-based STEM Accelerated Coding, an educational aid service.
“This has been a great opportunity for our students to apply what they have learned to a real-life experience,” St. James said. “The internships are going to be a great opportunity for them to learn more about technology and get ideas about how to make their apps better.”
Jacob, James and Tori have been awarded computer science internships with United Cerebral Palsy of Cleveland. Their experience will include working with information systems, databases and networks.
Hunter will spend time this summer at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies for an internship that will involve HTML development and testing for their site migration project.
“I think the internship is going to help me gain experience for the field I hope to go into — software design and website design,” Hunter said. “It’s going to be helpful in my understanding of how coding works in practice. I can’t thank my coding teacher enough for pushing me forward and helping me get this experience.”