Get Tested and Spread Awareness at National HIV Testing Day (June 26, 2016)

Flyer for National HIV Testing Day at the College of Physicians of PhiladelphiaDid you know that roughly one in five people who have HIV are not aware they carry the virus? This SUNDAY, JUNE 26, the College of Physicians will be hosting National HIV Testing Day. Come to the College and the Mütter Museum to learn about HIV/AIDS and get a free screening. The event will take place from 10 AM-4 PM.

Visitors will learn more about why it is important to get tested and how to live well with HIV/AIDS. Visitors will also have special access to the Historical Medical Library and be able to view a special pop-up exhibit about the history of sexually transmitted infections. Free yoga classes (between 2 and 4pm) will be offered along with information and activities to encourage informed decisions about health. Also on view will be panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and the “1981 – Until it’s Over” timeline, courtesy of the AIDS Fund. Also on display will be “I’m Positive,” an interactive game developed for the CDC to teach about coping with HIV.

HIV (and STD) testing will be available onsite (provided by Bebashi and Q-Spot), and anyone that gets tested for HIV will be given FREE entrance to the museum. This is also a special STAMP event.

Note: Entry to the museum is free only for those with the STAMP pass and to anyone who gets tested for HIV onsite. (Find ticket info and general museum hours here) The Mütter Museum is also part of the Access Admission program. Access/EBT cardholders can come for $2 and bring three additional family members for $2 each.

The Teva Interns Explore Mummies and Evolution at the Penn Museum

Students from the Teva Internship Program observe artifacts at the Penn Museum

Throughout the semester, students in the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship Program have journeyed to facilities all over the city. Among their many trips away from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, they traveled to the Art Church of West Philadelphia to learn how to cope with police violence; they studied robotics at the GRASP Lab of the University of Pennsylvania; they planned for their college futures at the Community College of Philadelphia; they even journeyed behind the walls of Eastern State Penitentiary to tackle the impact of mass incarceration on American society. For their final trip of the semester, we went back to the campus of the University of Pennsylvania to visit the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, better known as the Penn Museum.

Founded in 1887, the Penn Museum boasts the largest university museum in the country and houses an impressive collection of over one million archaeological specimens spanning a wide expanse of human history. In addition to an impressive Egyptian collection, exhibits display artifacts from civilizations representing all corners of the world, such as Greece, Rome, Iran, Meso-America, and China.

Students from the Teva Internship Program explore the mummies exhibit at the Penn Museum

The interns watched conservators work to preserve an ancient Egyptian mummy at the Artifact Lab, then explored the museum’s collection of mummies and Egyptian artifacts. They learned about the Museum’s developing exhibit on Africa, and finally they looked back at 200 million years of the development of the human species in the Human Evolution Gallery.

CEPI Curiosities: Captain Novolin

CEPI Curiosities: Tales from Medical History's Strange Side

Hello again, historio-medico aficionados. As always, this is Kevin, and I’m here with another installment of CEPI Curiosities.

For all you wonderful people who regularly follow our blogological exploits, you’ll notice we have a heavy focus on game-based learning in our Karabots Junior Fellows program. We strongly believe in the power of games and interactive learning to create exciting and engaging classroom experiences. With the popularity of games in modern culture, it should come as no surprise that we’re not the only ones out there trying to use games to teach about health and medicine.

But, I hear you ask, dear reader, “So, what? This is CEPI Curiosities; what’s so curious about health games?” Well I’m here to tell you about one of the earliest, and in some ways the most unusual, health-themed games I have ever encountered. I’m here to introduce you to Captain Novolin, a game designed to teach children about diabetes.

Screen shot of the title screen for Captain Novolin

Released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo, Captain Novolin was developed by Sculptured Software and produced by Raya Systems. Sculptured Software was an active player in the American games industry, mostly involved in developing home adaptations of arcade games, notably the Mortal Kombat series, as well as licensed games for recognizable brands such as The Simpsons, Star Wars, popular board games, and World Wrestling Entertainment. Publisher Raya, meanwhile, carved a small niche in the medical infogame market at the time with titles addressing cigarette smoking (Rex Ronan: Experimental Surgeon), asthma (Bronkie the Bronkiosaurus), and AIDS (the unreleased AIDS Avenger).

Captain Novalin’s story goes like this: Aliens led by the nefarious Blubberman have invaded Earth disguised as giant walking snacks and have kidnapped the mayor of Pineville. The unfortunate mayor suffers from Type 1 diabetes and only has a limited amount of medication. It is up to Captain Novolin to rescue the mayor and bring him his insulin before it’s too late! The adventure hits Captain Novolin on a personal level because as it so happens the good captain also has diabetes (the name Novolin comes from a brand of insulin). As a result, it is the player’s job to maintain the blue-clad crusader’s blood sugar levels, collecting healthy foods and avoiding sweets on his quest to rescue the pilfered politician.

Captain Novolin, star of the diabetes-themed game of the same name, avoids sugary cereal by jumping over it.

The game takes a literal-minded approach to the subject matter: Captain Novolin has to literally avoid unhealthy foods by jumping over or walking past the gaggle of gargantuan, ice cream cones, donuts, soda bottles and the like. If he comes in contact with one of the sentient sugary snacks [I promise that’s the last alliterative line in this article], he becomes dizzy; too much contact and he passes out, forcing the player to try again. Interspersed between the gameplay sections are tips on proper insulin usage and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. The game also periodically quizzes the player on information related to diabetes.

Screenshot from Captain Novolin quizzing the player on the importance of exercise for patients with diabetes

Captain Novolin is praiseworthy for staying on message, something that cannot necessarily be said for some of Raya’s other health games. For example, Rex Ronan: Experimental Surgeon, another Sculptured Software creation, has the player manage smoking by shrinking down and entering the body (a la Fantastic Voyage) to clear out tar with a laser. That being said, most video game enthusiasts have a low opinion of the Captain Novolin for its poor controls and unconventional premise.

Two images from Captain Novolin that address maintainig blood sugar levels

If you are interested in some more contemporary examples, of health-themed games you yourself can play without tracking down a Super Nintendo and a copy of Captain Novolin (a game that runs roughly $30-200 on eBay), there are some impressive games that spread awareness about important subjects, including depression (Depression Quest), cancer (Cancer Game; That Dragon, Cancer), hormone replacement therapy (Dys4ia), and vaccination (Illsville: Fight the Diseasehosted by our own History of Vaccines).

Until next time, catch you on the strange side!


Games of Forensics: The Karabots Fellows Show Off Their Prototypes

Students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program demonstrate a card-based roleplaying game on forensics to two visitors to the Mütter Museum

Throughout the school year, the Karabots Junior Fellows have learned about the basic principles of game design. They have met with game developers, used games to learn about STEM concepts, playtested medically-themed games in class, and done some game development work of their own. All the while, they have learned about a variety of fields related to forensic science.

Students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program demonstrate a game on forensics they designed to visitors to the Mütter Museum

Beginning in January, instructor Kevin Impellizeri broke them into five teams and issued a challenge: work together to develop a prototype for a game themed around forensic science. It could be any aspect of the field and they could develop a game in any style they wished (such as roleplaying-based, board-based, or card-based). Throughout the semester, they devoted periods in class to work out a concept, develop a prototype and put it to the test, making alterations as they saw fit. This past Saturday they finally unveiled their finished products.

A student in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program demonstrates a board game on forensics to two visitors to the Mütter Museum

The best test of a game’s success is seeing how it plays; therefore, we opened the Koop classroom and let visitors to the Mütter Museum come in and try them out. Visitors met with each team of Fellows, who explained the rules and helped them play through their games. Several of the Fellows even created and carried signs in the Museum lobby to entice visitors to play their games!

Several of the Karabots Junior Fellows entice visitors to the Müttre Museum to try their games, holding a sign saying "Try Mütter's New Games"

Philly Youth Explore Mass Incarceration at Eastern State Penitentiary

Teva and Karabots Fellows interact with tour guide Lauren Bennett at Eastern State Penitentiary

Recently students from the Karabots Junior Fellows and Teva Pharmaceuticals Interns ventured to ominous Eastern state Penitentiary to learn about the prison’s unique history and delve deeper into the role prisons play in society today. Astute readers of this blog will recall the Karabots Fellows recently met with Lauren Zalut, the site’s Director of Education and Tour Programs, to explore the topic of justice and how it relates to prisons. On a gray, rainy day, the students trekked to Fairmount to see “America’s most historic prison” for themselves.

Daytime facade of Eastern State Penitentiary

Image Source: Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site

There they met with Lauren Bennett, one of the site’s experienced tour guides. Lauren brought them through Eastern State’s imposing Front Gate and led them through the prison’s 142 year history. Along the way they learned how Eastern State Penitentiary initially opened in 1829 as an institution based around the (then) revolutionary idea that prisoners should be rehabilitated and prepared to reenter society, rather than simply punished. To that end, inmates were subject to constant solitary confinement throughout the duration of their sentence (for the predominantly nonviolent offenders that comprised the penitentiary’s early inmate population, this meant roughly an average of 2-3 years). The founders’ hope was this isolation would foster personal reflection and inspire the inmates to feel penitence (hence the term “penitentiary”).

The ambitious “separate system” eventually broke down due to overcrowding and other logistical and administrative factors. Solitary confinement was abandoned in 1913, when the prison officially changed to the communal (“congregate”) prison system seen in modern prisons. As the years went on, the inmate population consisted of more violent offenders who served for longer sentences, including life in prison as well as “death row” inmates, and the focus on rehabilitation largely gave way to security and protecting the public. The prison shut down in 1971 as a result of a variety of factors, including the high cost of maintaining a prison built in the 1820s and the close proximity to a residential neighborhood. Eastern State remained abandoned until the 1990s, when it opened for an annual fundraiser during Halloween (now known as Terror Behind the Walls) and opened for daytime visits in 1994.

Students from  the Karabots Junior Fellows Program and the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship Program discuss prisons wih Eastern State Penitentiary Tour Guide Lauren Bennett


Recently, Eastern State has expanded their focus from the history of the building itself to addressing the larger issue of prison in America. The United States houses the highest number of prisoners in the world (2.2 million as of 2015), and the number of people in prison skyrocketed in the four decades since ESP closed its gates; however, the rate of crime between 1970 and 2016 has remained roughly the same despite the large amount of people in prison. America is viewed as being in a state of “mass incarceration,” and ESP has committed to getting the public to seriously consider the the social, cultural, racial, and economic  factors that have contributed to it.

One of the Teva fellows interacts with a touch screen-based poll at Prison's Today, an exhibit on mass incarceration at Eastern State Penitentiary

Along the way Lauren challenged the students to consider why societies build prisons. They also discussed together different possible solutions to America’s high incarceration, including more effective drug programs, higher education funding, measures to alleviate poverty and providing alternatives to prison for certain offences. They tackled a complex topic with complex solutions, which left their adult chaperones (and Lauren herself) impressed. After their tour ended, the students explored Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, the site’s new exhibit on the subject.