Throughout April and May, Las Crucens experienced the magic of medicine and science thanks to the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Health Sciences Library which secured a traveling exhibit from the National Institutes of Health – National Library of Medicine. The six-banner exhibit, Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance, Science and Magic, was on display on the BCOM campus, Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, and the NMSU Zuhl library where it displayed during finals week and seen by thousands of people.

In addition to the traveling exhibition, the BCOM Health Sciences Library partnered with local libraries and the NMSU Astronomy Department to offer six-weeks of Harry Potter themed programming to community members of all ages. BCOM’s Library Director Erin Palazzolo and Assistant Director Norice Lee organized the events in order to promote reading and STEM-H (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Health) throughout Dona Ana County, which has low literacy rates and educational levels.

“BCOM is not only about medical education, but also about improving the lives of those who reside in our border region,” explained Lee. “This community outreach project was a strong fit for BCOM and the project partners who aim to have a positive effect on literacy and educational levels. Contributing to this effort via a high quality National Library of Medicine traveling exhibit linked to popular fiction/fantasy helped strengthen ties between BCOM and the community.”

Over 200 community members showed up to the evening kick-off event which included activities, games, a costume contest, and a talk by NMSU’s Dr. William Eamon on the links between modern science and magic. The BCOM campus also hosted four Lunch & Learns that were all well-received by the public. One guest comment card said, “The presentation was both fun and informative. I was impressed with the amount of information covered in an hour and I had a blast.” Another wrote, “Loved it! Glad you are bringing cool things like this to our area.”

High school students from Arrowhead Park Medical Academy also spent a day at BCOM where they participated in what Palazzolo called, “Harry Potter-themed activities with a medical twist.” The future healthcare professionals practiced suturing in the Care of Magical Creatures course and learned about DNA in the Monster Genetics Lab.

Thanks to a grant from the New Mexico Literacy Foundation, the fun continued with a full weekend of activities at Branigan Memorial Library. More than 225 parents and children showed up to see the Hawks Aloft owl presentation, dissect an owl pellet, and get creative in the Alchemy Lab.

The culminating event was an Astronomy Night hosted by the NMSU Campus Observatories with nearly 80 in attendance. Overall the traveling exhibition was seen by an estimated 3,500 people and over 700 community members came out for the other presentations and activities. “Everything went really well,” Palazzolo said. “I had a ton of fun and I think our students and the community as a whole did too. We were overwhelmed with the amount of engagement we had, and it was so wonderful to see adults and kids alike come out and see what our school and the National Library of Medicine are all about.”

Stay tuned for even more community fun. The BCOM Health Sciences Library has secured another sought after traveling exhibit, Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived & Well-Drawn, which uses comics to tell personal stories of illness and health. It will be visiting Las Cruces in fall 2019.