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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 05/22/98
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Physician Creates Opportunities for Disabled Community

Cincinnati--H. Hughes Hawkins, MD, has received the 1998 Oscar Schmidt Public Service Award from the University of Cincinnati for his work to promote independent living, build social connections, and provide recreational therapy for people with disabilities. He has also offered many college students guidance and the opportunity to earn experience in an academic medical environment at a critical time in their careers.

One organization Hawkins has worked with is LADD--Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled--which helps people with disabilities live as independently as possible. Dr. Hawkins worked with LADD's Community Connections, a program that pairs a person with disabilities and a facilitator who finds places where their partner can explore common interests and become more socially integrated in the community. Hawkins explains, "Facilitators help to develop the self confidence and communications skills of the person with disabilities."

From 1985 to 1994, Dr. Hawkins was a member of Stepping Stones Center, a program designed to offer recreational facilities to people with disabilities. His main project, the largest volunteer effort at Stepping Stones, was a programmatically-focused playground. Dr. Hawkins helped raise over $50,000 in funds, recruit volunteers, and acquire donations of materials and equipment. "When I began working with Stepping Stones, I asked what was needed to round out the programming or facilities. The answer was a playground," Hawkins explains. "We wanted to develop a playground that promoted creativity, range of motion, interaction, and fitness."

Hawkins has served as director of radiology at the Drake Center for 19 years and for the last ten years has evaluated swallowing disorders in patients with neurological disorders. Defining common terms and setting a consistent care pathway allowed for the measurement of diet restrictions and quality of life issues. In addition to standard bedside evaluation and imaging procedures, Hawkins, along with the speech pathology and radiology teams at Drake developed methods for determining and following quality of life in these patients with regards to recommendations from the study.

Hawkins also provides interested college graduates an opportunity to work with him for 13 months to experience the academic medical environment. Similar to a coop experience, students work on clinical, research, and educational projects to get a sense of what a career in medicine would entail. "We're offering opportunities to students at a time when they need to make informed decisions about what their career will be," he says.

Hawkins is also often asked to visit people who've recently suffered a debilitating accident or who are trying to adapt to a disability. His efforts include finding or creating materials to improve the quality of their daily lives or visiting with patients and counseling them. "He has taught me how to accept a handicap and then move on without self pity in a positive, focused way of life," wrote Dr. Corning Benton, MD. Hawkins believes his volunteer work is consistent with the reasons he initially pursued a career in medicine. He says, "I want to work with people to address the quality of life issues. Along with doing the work and getting good results, getting to know people has been the best reward."

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