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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Respiratory Therapy Student Team “Thick and Tenacious” Takes First Place in Sputum Bowl

July 26, 2022

The word “Sputum” is defined as “mucus from the respiratory system contaminated with bacteria from the throat and mouth”.

Pretty gross, right? In football, there’s the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and of course the Super Bowl.  So why in the world would you call a competition the “Sputum Bowl?”

Because – you’re a professor who taught Respiratory Therapy (RT) students 35 years ago and was concerned they weren’t engaged enough. So he invented a game – kind of like Jeopardy – where there are two teams, each member with a buzzer and a microphone, ready to hit their buzzer when they knew the answer to an RT professional question from the moderator. The name Sputum Bowl was just for laughs, yet the light touch to the competition has kept Respiratory Therapy students across the country engaged to this day.

This year, the teams from SJVC Ontario – the “Thick and Tenacious” (1st place) and the “Pink and Frothy” (3rd place) – joined forces last month to become Sputum Bowl champions at the California state competition at the CSRC (California Society for Respiratory Care) Annual Conference in Temecula!

SJVC teams have a winning record dating back to their first national win in 2008. Because of COVID, the national competition will be skipped this November in New Orleans and will resume in 2023 in Nashville. SJVC contributes to costs for the RT students to travel to the competition.

Being a Respiratory Therapist, however, is so much more than that. Grey Benton, Respiratory Therapy instructor and Sputum Bowl Coach at the SJVC Ontario campus, says that “students feel fulfilled as Respiratory Therapists. They want to be hands-on helping people.” Some students are driven by the desire to do something after seeing Respiratory Therapists care for a family member or child with a respiratory disorder. Respiratory Therapists often work in Critical Care units and Emergency Departments where the sickest patients are found.

“Our graduates have four different kinds of CPR training,” says Benton. It takes a certain kind of person to help in that kind of way. The students inspire Benton; that’s why he keeps teaching after 17 years and practicing RT for the last 50 years.

Benton says “Managers view participants who compete in Sputum Bowl as being more motivated, more knowledgeable, and more competitive. Adding this information to their resume can give them an edge in the hiring process.”

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