/////UAMS Medical Students Spend Summer Days Helping At-Risk Youth
UAMS Medical Students Spend Summer Days Helping At-Risk Youth 2018-01-05T09:11:34+00:00

JUNE 25, 2004 | Summer means a lot of things to different people, but for many college students it means relaxing by the pool, playing at the lake and enjoying not having to wake up early for classes. But for a group of medical students from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), summer means something entirely different – the chance to help underprivileged youth.

Last week, 17 students in their first, second and third years of medical school gave health exams to approximately 200 disadvantaged 14- and 15-year-olds – many of whom had never received a full health screening in their lives. Assisting the medical students were nurse practitioners from UAMS and Charles Feild, M.D., chief of Community Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine.

The health screenings were administered at three Arkansas college campuses to youths participating in a program called Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.). Coordinated by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, Y.O.U. is a non-profit program designed to help 14- and 15-year-old students who are believed to be at risk for dropping out of high school. By providing educational and vocational skills in a university setting, the program hopes to encourage the students to remain in high school.

Here’s how the program works: At-risk students from virtually every county in Arkansas spend six weeks on an Arkansas college campus at least 50 miles away from their homes. Students in the program receive remedial classroom instruction for the first half of the day and work on campus for the rest of the day. After the students leave the program, the staff continues to support them by providing four years of follow-up guidance – which includes monthly contact through newsletters, telephone calls or personal visits, and monitoring of school attendance records and grades.

One of the goals of the program is to teach the students the importance of health care, which is where the medical screenings come into place.

Joyce Moore, a UAMS registered nurse practitioner who helps coordinate the health screenings, said the program is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

“It’s not only a great experience for medical students wanting to practice physical exams, but it also allows them to do community service at the same time,” Moore said. “And, of course, it’s a great program for the kids – they get the chance to live among college students, and it helps them realize that college isn’t such a far off notion after all.”

Feild agreed. “These kids are living in a dorm room, attending classes on a college campus – it’s a mind-expanding, world-expanding experience for them,” he said. “Many of them are the first in their families to set foot on a college campus – it’s very powerful.”

Christian Hester, a second-year medical student, said he is grateful for the opportunity he had to help the students. “Performing physicals for the Y.O.U. program was my first opportunity to incorporate my medical skills into my volunteerism. The experience definitely ranks as one of my most rewarding volunteer activities,” he said.

John Barr, also a second-year medical student, said the experience made him proud to be in the medical field. “I was given the opportunity to help those who generally can’t get all the help they need, even if that means just having someone older to talk to that they can confide in,” he said. “Some of these kids really just needed someone to talk to about their problems, knowing that their parents or friends are not going to find out. So to me, it was much more than a physical exam – it was getting to know these kids as people and hopefully giving them the advice they sorely needed.”

This is the tenth year UAMS has provided health screenings for the Y.O.U. program. In addition to the health screenings, the UAMS team also provides brief counseling and performs psycho-social interviews.

Links on This Page

UAMS Department of Pediatrics: http://pediatrics.ach.uams.edu

Y.O.U.: http://www.arkansashighered.com/student_site/youth.html

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