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High school students get opportunity to view brain surgery at Phoenix hospital

PHOENIX — About 100 Arizona students got a chance to see inside a person’s mind as they witnessed a real brain surgery taking place at Barrow Neurological Institute on Monday.

The junior high and high school students are part of the Students Supporting Brain Tumor Research organization, which is the largest student-run nonprofit in Arizona.

The students work to raise awareness and funds to support research in fighting brain tumors, which can affect teenagers and are often fatal, according to the organization’s founder, Stephen Glassman.

“Brain tumors, very few people know, are the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths in teenagers in the world today,” he said. “Over the past 20 or 30 years — it’s horrible to report — but we’ve only gained six months of life expectancy once you get a brain tumor.”

Inside a theater-style room at the Barrow Neurological Institute on Thomas Road and 3rd Avenue in Phoenix, the students were given 3-D glasses to view doctors on a monitor performing surgery on a patient with a frontal lobe tumor.

“I honestly don’t know what to expect,” said J.T. Casalena, a senior at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, before going into the theater to watch the operation.

Ivan Bascon is a senior at Red Mountain High School in Mesa and said he wants to work in medicine, so seeing Monday’s operation was inspiring to him.

“Being able to see the brain and seeing what doctors do and what my future profession is really pushes me to be my best,” said Bascon.

Monday’s event is a precursor for the SSBTR’s annual Walk-a-thon on Saturday, Feb. 28, at Saguaro High School.

Glassman said the event is open to the public and includes several activities for visitors to take part in. It is also an important event for the organization in raising funds that will go toward research to combat brain tumors.

“Our major benefactors are the National Brain Tumor Foundation, the Barrow Neurological Institute, the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and T-Gen,” he said. “I’m very proud also to say that 96 cents out of every dollar that we raise — 96 cents — goes directly to brain tumor research.”