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The Catalyst

MUSC students become heroes at local school

By Annalise Baker-Whitcomb
Public Relations

Meeting Street Academy, a private preschool and elementary school for under-resourced families, wanted to have a relationship with MUSC even before it opened its doors in 2008.

Seeking to provide exemplary health services to their students through a partnership with MUSC, school nurse Jennifer Robinson, R.N., said that academy administrators “went around MUSC knocking on doors trying to find interest, and they found it.” 

Since then, the partnership has become a multifaceted, multidisciplinary program that benefits both students at MSA and at MUSC. MSA originally approached MUSC about doing a medical clinic, an idea that evolved to include preventative health and nutrition classes, exercise programs and health services for students, parents and teachers.

MUSC dietetic intern Angela Fish reads a book to Meeting Street Academy first-grade students.
MUSC dietetic intern Angela Fish reads a book to Meeting Street Academy first-grade students.

Youth sessions and workshops are taught by students from all disciplines on campus including pharmacy, medicine, physician assistants and dietetic interns involved with Junior Doctors of Health. This initiative teaches children about healthy eating, exercise and health care professions while also educating teachers and parents to support them as role models. JDOH programs are run throughout the state but MSA is by far its most involved school, with each of MSA’s 107 students being reached by the program. MUSC students volunteer their own time, participate in a service-learning project or participate in JDOH through a course, and get interprofessional, real-world experience.

“The youth and the MUSC students become really connected with each other,” said Elana Wells, a program coordinator for JDOH. “The youth run up and hug the MUSC students when they arrive, and they’re sad when they leave.”

JDOH officials often receive feedback from parents, according to Wells, who talk about their children asking them to buy Brussels sprouts or kale because of something they did in school that day. JDOH has also conducted an evaluation of the program through the University of South Carolina and has determined that more exposure to the program creates a positive impact on health.

MSA has made JDOH a priority in its school, allowing higher involvement and more access for its students.

"Having the support of the school is so important to our success in being able to serve the youth, the parents and teachers,” said Wells.

Improvements in students’ medical care are another benefit of this partnership. Robinson has been able to increase their services and effectiveness by providing access to MUSC resources.

Telemedicine allows MUSC pediatrician James McElligot, M.D., to use electronic stethoscopes, examination cameras and other devices to replicate an in-person visit from MSA’s nurse’s office.

This allows for easier follow-up appointments with students who have had medical issues and allows new problems to be assessed, diagnosed and treated with the child missing fewer days of school and avoiding an emergency room visit.

Jean McDowell, the director of community relations at MSA, said that someone in the building is in contact with MUSC every day. The partnership includes a diverse amount of activities, including swimming lessons and community events. McDowell said that both the MSA and MUSC students look forward to their time together, and that the junior doctors are heroes as soon as they step in the door.

“I asked one student what her favorite part of the day was, and she said it was getting to try different kinds of peppers with the junior doctors,” said McDowell. “She said the worst part of the day was not getting to have seconds.”

Another example of collaboration between the two institutions is MSA’s running club. JDOH and researchers at the USC Arnold School of Public Health expressed interest in evaluating how this exercise affects classroom behavior and academic success.

They donated pedometers to be worn by the children, and they are tracking the results with help from MSA officials.

During the application process, MSA stresses family commitment and involvement, which is a huge advantage when trying to determine the effects of a program, through all-inclusive surveys and feedback. This policy also ensures high attendance for all events.

In addition to learning about healthy lifestyles, children at MSA also are taught about different health care careers. Each MUSC student from the JDOH program introduces their discipline and explains what they do.

Parents are counseled on how to prepare children for the health profession and biomedical science careers by encouraging things such as exploration in nature. Robinson said that on a recent dress-up day, many students chose to wear scrubs. 

The partnership between MSA and MUSC can also act as a guiding light for schools that may not have the same opportunities and resources.

“Our partnership with MUSC is mutually beneficial - all constituents do what they do best, which positively impacts those directly involved and serves as a model of what is possible in our community,” said McDowell.

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April 24, 2013

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