ROANOKE, Va., March 10, 2011 - Since the charter class began its studies at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine on Aug. 2, 2010, the Roanoke community has welcomed them with open arms. Businesses, non-profits, and other organizations held special events for the students to show them the wealth of opportunities in Southwest Virginia. Now the charter class had the opportunity to give back, taking part in service learning projects in the community along with students from Jefferson College of Health Sciences.
More than 90 students from both schools take an interprofessional leadership course together. As part of the curriculum, the students were divided into teams to complete service learning projects. In the month and a half time period allotted for the projects, students completed more than 1,200 hours of service to a variety of organizations.
“The service learning project accomplishes many great things at once for our students,” said Dr. David Trinkle, associate dean for community and culture. Trinkle has helped develop the interprofessionalism curriculum at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “It requires them to work in teams formed with various health professional students from diverse backgrounds and training and test their team and leadership skills which they have been working on in class since the summer.
“Second, it gets our students intimately involved with our great community at the beginning of their four year curriculum and involves our community equally with our school,” added Trinkle.
On Monday, Feb. 21, the 10 teams of students presented their projects to each other. Leaders from the organizations where students served were also invited to share how the projects made an impact. Members of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s Community and Diversity Advisory Board, who helped network students to the community’s needs, also attended the presentations.
One group completed their time at the Bradley Free Clinic. Many of the students plan to continue working at the clinic with hopes to have a student-run clinic night by the end of this year.
“We wanted to do something that’s going to extend beyond this semester,” said Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine charter class member Yisrael Katz. “The vision that we had as a group was to incorporate everyone’s interests and ultimately do something that’s good for the community, something that’s going to boost our training, and something that’s going to give back to the school.”
The team saw over 182 patients during their service time. In addition, they improved the clinic’s patient intake forms and created medication cards for patients to fill out and use in case of emergency.
Dr. Randall Rhea helped oversee the team’s efforts at the clinic. “It was obvious from our first meeting with the students that we had a very special group that we were privileged enough to work with. Our first meeting was somewhat magical and it just took off from there.” Rhea added, “Very quickly, those of us at the free clinic embraced the students. More so, seemingly, these students embraced us. They’ve really already done a lot of outstanding things. The medication card sounds very simple, but it’s not. Streamlining our intake forms sounds simple, but it’s not. Those of us at the free clinic have always dreamed big dreams. We were lucky enough to have students who dreamed the same.”
A different group got to see another side of health care by making meals at the Ronald McDonald House. VTC student Jarred Hicks gave an example that impacted him personally. “There was one woman who was there all three times we served dinner. If you start thinking about the impact beyond just the fact that she has a child in the hospital for weeks now, you have to think, she’s also coming from far away. So what’s going on with the rest of her family? Does she have family at home or other kids who are being affected by this? Those were the impacts this [project] had on us.”
Katie Dederer, a VTC student who also pitched in at the Ronald McDonald House, expressed similar sentiments. “We got to reflect, not only on the medical aspect of health, our future professions, but also the humanistic aspect and address some of the concerns that go into medical care that are outside the realm of the hospital.”
Several groups got the opportunity to interact with local children by working with Roanoke City Public Schools and organizations that support the school system. A group that tutored students in science and math at William Fleming High School saw the students’ test scores improve from the time they started working with them. That motivated many of the students to go beyond their required service hours. “We all put in the required time, but a few of us actually came on other Saturdays that weren’t even counted into the project because they did that on their own time,” said Jefferson College of Health Sciences student Joshua Becker. “Seeing that initiative beyond the scope of the project was motivating to all of us in the group and helped us be more on board and involved in the project.” Many group members have continued tutoring at the high school.
After the presentations in the auditorium, the service learning groups had the opportunity to interact with other groups, school leaders, and community members with a poster reception in the student commons room.
The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute joins the basic science, life science, bioinformatics, and engineering strengths of Virginia Tech with the medical practice and medical education experience of Carilion Clinic. Virginia Tech Carilion is located in a new biomedical health sciences campus in Roanoke, adjacent to Carilion Clinic and near Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
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Starting a new medical school and developing an innovative curriculum can be a daunting task, but Rick Vari was up to the challenge. As the country’s first chair of a department of interprofessionalism in medical education, he is hard at work to not only ensure the success of the program, but the success of the students as well.
David Trinkle, M.D., is a busy person. As associate dean of community and culture at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, vice mayor of Roanoke, and a local business owner, he tirelessly networks in search of new and innovative ways to involve students in the Roanoke community.