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MUSC News Center

Doctors shape health of community schools

By Dawn Brazell | News Center | February 12, 2014

Adopt a docDr. Amy-Lee Bredlau pets her bearded dragon Esmeralda, one of the stars in a series of wellness videos she's doing to help elementary students.
Sarah Pack 

Amy-Lee Bredlau pulls out her bearded dragon, Esmeralda, and gently strokes her as she talks about the importance of keeping clean hands. She demonstrates how to cough into her elbow versus her hands, the sudden noise causing the frightened lizard to clamp down harder onto her blouse.

This is the problem filming with animals. They are unpredictable.

So are children, though, and brain tumors – two of Bredlau’s specialties. The pediatric neuro-oncologist at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) knows the children at Goodwin Elementary School are likelier to hear her message if her menagerie of animals are part of the script.

Bredlau, M.D., participates in the Docs-Adopt School Wellness Initiative. Doing a video series called “Be Healthy with Dr. B” was the school’s request of how she could best help create a healthy atmosphere at the school. The videos, clips of which can be seen here, include topics that range from hand washing to getting a good night’s rest.

This is more than volunteer work for Bredlau, though, who serves as director of MUSC’s new Pediatric Brain Tumor Program. The children she sees at the hospital often are very sick.

“Seeing healthy children is therapy for me. When I was a resident, I would take my child to the park and watch her play with other healthy kids, and it was so therapeutic for me. Now I go to the schools and interact with the healthy kids there. It’s food for the soul.”

Janice Key, M.D., MUSC Boeing Center for Children's Wellness Director of School and Community-based Programs, loves her role as cheerleader for a program that benefits schools and physicians, she said.

“It not only feels good, it also really does work and is making a difference in the health of thousands of children.  I love all of the wonderful work being done by our adopting doctors.  They have gone far beyond what I planned to do with ideas that are even more far reaching than I ever envisioned.”

Currently, 146 schools in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties are actively involved in the program.  Of these schools, 81 have been “adopted” by 99 doctors – 52 of those doctors work at MUSC, Key said. “Although pediatrics is the most common specialty among adopting doctors, any type of physician can participate as this program does not involve any clinical responsibilities.”

Mission Statement

“As physicians, we offer our expertise in health and wellness to the schools in our community as part of the Docs-Adopt School Wellness Initiative.  We will serve as a resource to the school Wellness Committees as they conduct needs assessments and implement changes that will enhance the wellness of everyone within our schools.  We believe that by working together to improve health we will benefit our entire community because healthy teachers are better teachers and healthy kids are better learners."


Adopting doctors serve as the health expert for school wellness committees, contributing to important policy and environmental changes (see list below) being made. Some doctors also contribute in other ways, such as writing a wellness column for the school newsletter, giving presentations at Parent Teacher Student Organization meetings or in the classroom or participating in school health fairs.  Examples of what is happening at the schools are available at the website

Key said the program has experienced great success and growth since the initial pilot work with schools in Charleston County seven years ago.  In addition, this year the model is being used in school districts in Columbia and Greenville and many other communities statewide are considering implementing it next year.

“We are currently working to extend the benefits of this program to schools across the state.  This will include collaboration with the three other children’s hospitals in South Carolina, which are located in Greenville, Columbia and Florence.  We also plan a targeted approach to reach communities with few resources but the greatest need, especially those along the I-95 corridor.”

The MUSC Heart and Vascular Center’s Marion Taylor, M.D., and Eric Powers, M.D., will be working with the program to serve several communities in this area of the state.  Partnerships are being set up to serve specific communities.  This includes potential programs in Orangeburg working with S.C. State and the Orangeburg-Calhoun regional Medical Center and in Clarendon County with the Furman University’s Riley Institute Diversity Leaders Initiative with Dr. Katy Richardson.

Key said the purpose of the Docs-Adopt School Wellness Initiative is to improve nutrition and increase physical activity in schools by making healthy, effective policy and environmental changes.  Doctors serve as one member of a school’s wellness committee that selects and implements proven strategies that meet the needs of that individual school.  The doctor serves as the health expert and resource for the committee whose other members include the school nurse, teachers and parents.

The team is needed to combat health issues facing children today. During the past thirty years the numbers of children and adolescents who are overweight or obese has increased dramatically, she said.  In South Carolina, the 7th fattest state in the country, almost half of high school students have an unhealthy weight.

“Obesity is the epidemic of today. When so many children need help, we can no longer rely upon traditional health care where we see one patient at a time in our offices.  Instead we have to use public health strategies to reach children where they are - in school.”

Policy/Environmental ChangesDistrict WideIndividual Schools
Healthier nutrition

Food service worker and school nurse training

Nutrition analysis of school menu

Recipe development

Removal of deep fat fryers

Salads offered daily

All salad dressings are low-fat

All cereals are low sugar

All breads are whole grain


Fruit and vegetable tasting days

Snack and birthday party policies that prohibit high sugar foods

Removal of sugar sweetened beverages

Nutritional counseling with BMI analysis
Increased physical activity

PE teachers and school nurse training

Measurement of Fitness gram (including BMI)

Before and after school activities

Classroom physical activity (Deskercise and Yoga Snacks)

After school walking and running clubs

Exercise promotion in fundraising events (such as a walk/run rather than selling candy)


  Related Video

Adopt a doc
Dr. Bredlau's "Be Healthy with Dr. B" videos help students to live a healthy lifestyle.

Related Stories >>

The Secrets to Getting Teens to Lose Weight (News Center)

Resources >>

MUSC Children's Hospital

School resource link

Community resource link

MUSC News Center archives


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