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Pilot Elective: Community Immersion and Inner City Health Education

Med.Student Elective_29

Averie Tigges, a fourth-year medical student teaching in a high school classroom

The elective origin story: A passion project

As a fourth year medical student you have the opportunity to take a Leadership in Medicine course lead by Dr. Gunderman. This is a unique opportunity to step away from the clinical and pathologic side of medicine and gain insight in leadership, teaching and communication innovation.

At the end of the course, groups come up with a passion project based on an identified need. My group unanimously came up with the notion that there is a huge health literacy disparity within the Indianapolis community. Our idea blossomed into a community partnership with a local high school: Indianapolis Metropolitan High School. This particular high school is a Goodwill Charter school that serves a population mainly comprised of students who have been through the juvenile justice system and the foster system, along with a high percentage of teen parents. The school was looking for a community partner who would be willing to come in and work with their students on a regular basis and even possibly teach a semester long elective for the high school students. Shortly after, the idea for the “Community Immersion and Inner City Health Education” elective was born.

Making the elective a reality

During the month of October our group worked with the principal of Indy Met and Dr. Gunderman to finalize logistics and create a vision for what we wanted to bring to the classroom. By meeting with the Indy Met faculty we were able to identify the health literacy disparities within the student population and were able to gauge student’s interest by surveys given in the classroom. With the help of the principal we decided a pilot semester (with members of the original Leadership group acting as educators) would be the best way to work out the kinks while the formal elective proposal was being finalized.

As a group this is our fourth month teaching the elective and my first in the classroom. It honestly amazes me what my peers have been able to cover in the past months and the impact the information has had on the students. So far topics my amazing colleagues have covered include: obesity, nutrition, exercise, substance abuse, mental health and wellness, safe sex, healthy relationships, healthy habits during pregnancy and infant care.

Big take aways that I have learned from working with these students:

  1. There is a real need for this class. From the questions they ask to the comments they share when asked what they have learned in the last couple months, we are truly doing what we set out to do.
  2. This is equally as beneficial for the fourth years teaching. Being able to communicate with a population of students/patients who might not be 100% open to hearing what you have to say is something we as providers will constantly be challenged by. Being able to meet the students where they are, understand what’s important to them and then adapt the communication style to best get the information across is an excellent exercise for soon to by physicians.

Class of 2019: Check out the elective for yourself!

Shout out to any rising fourth years interested in a fun, impactful, and less time intensive elective for the spring semester. “Community Immersion and Inner City Health Education” elective will be a formal elective soon!

Averie Tigges, MS4

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Averie Tigges

IUSM Class of 2018 Headed to UC San Diego for Internal Medicine Residency