Welcome to Top Gun 4 Kids!

Over the past two decades, despite the enormity of the technological revolution, America's youth has not aggressively embraced career choices in science, engineering and technology (SET). For example, the American Engineers Association reports that total degrees in engineering have dropped 16%, and foreign nationals now complete 45% of engineering PhDs and 32% of Masters degrees. The same lack of interest in some areas of medicine has been reported. For example, 2001 was the first year that residency spots in general surgery went unfilled.

To make matters worse, despite the strides made by the civil rights movement over the past fifty years, there are still areas of society, which require further attention due to inequality of participation. One such area is science, engineering, and technology (SET), which is a sector still dominated by white males. Although they constitute only 40% of the national work force, white males hold 69% of the SET jobs, while white women (35% of the national work force) hold 15% of SET jobs, African-Americans and Hispanics (21%) hold 6% of SET jobs, and people with disabilities (14%) hold 6% of SET jobs. In medicine, the American Association of Medical Colleges published application and matriculation data for 2003 that showed African Americans have a reduced acceptance rate when compared to white applicants. 48.8% of white applicants are accepted to a medical school, while only 37.7% of African American applicants gained acceptance. Furthermore, despite the 2000 US census showing African Americans to make up 12.8% of the population, African Americans make up only 8.0% of medical school applicants and a mere 6.5% of total medical school admissions. Clearly something must be done to attract women and minorities to science, engineering, technology, and medical careers. Otherwise, we will not be taking advantage of the potential held by a large portion of our nation's work force.

Through both his professional research and his non-profit organization, Modern Day Miracle, Dr. James "Butch" Rosser has sought ways to include disenfranchised segments of society in cutting edge science and technology related activities. For over a decade, he has used his Top Gun Laparoscopic Skills and Suturing program to train surgeons to operate without opening the patient (laparoscopic surgery is done with long instruments and a camera inserted into the abdomen through specialized ports, while the surgeon looks at a video monitor on which the intra-abdominal image is displayed). Recently, Dr. Rosser and his research team conducted a study, which found a direct correlation between video game skill and laparoscopic surgical skill among surgeons. Dr. Rosser presented the following results at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality Conference in Newport Beach, CA in January:

Subjects who in the past played video games for more than three hours per week have a 37 percent reduction in errors when performing laparoscopic surgery, and accomplish their surgical task 27 percent quicker, than their non-video game playing counterparts. Current video gamers scored 40 percent better overall in the Top Gun suturing course. Current video game skill and past video game experience were significantly more indicative of a surgeon's laparoscopic surgical proficiency than number of cases previously performed and years of training

With the average video gamer playing 5-13 hours a week and the video game industry accounting for 10 billion dollars in the USA and 20 billion dollars worldwide, it is imperative that we use this vast resource to accomplish more than to simply entertain. As a result of the findings in the above study, Dr. Rosser created Top Gun for Kids, a program designed to increase interest in career options in science, medicine, engineering and technology among young people, especially women and minorities. This is to be accomplished by using the popularity and hand-eye skill building of video games. Top Gun for Kids will allow grade school and high school children from all around the United States to compete in a series of events that include demonstration of video gaming skills, surgical simulators, and minimally invasive surgical laboratory drills. He will initially hold a pilot Top Gun for Kids program in New York City at the Advanced Medical Technology Institute, before targeting The World of Sports Innovation Super Show in Orlando, Florida in January.

Along with an accompanying technology centered cognitive curriculum, it is Dr. Rosser's hope that this program will encourage the early exposure and maturation of the link between fine motor skill, 2-D depth perception and hand-eye coordination development through popular entertainment platforms such as video and computer gaming and the skills necessary to compete for jobs in the technology sector. Hopefully this program can be an "edutaining" component of an effort to attract more of our youth to cutting edge career choices such as minimally invasive surgery, computer programming, gene therapy research, or robotic aerial surveillance. If more children pursue careers in science, engineering, technology, and medicine, then the goal of Top Gun for Kids will have been accomplished.

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