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Rising second-year medical students who participated in the 2018 Urban Health Project are shown during an outing.

Rising second-year medical students who participated in the 2018 Urban Health Project are shown during an outing.

Medical students in the Urban Health Project construct a mobility ramp for residents in Greater Cincinnati.
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Publish Date: 07/20/18
Media Contact: Cedric Ricks, 513-558-4657
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Medical Students Serve the Community Through the Urban Health Project

Rachel Podell and Jasmine Prince, medical students now entering their second year at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine, spent eight weeks connecting with residents of Bethany House Services, a shelter in Cincinnati for families experiencing homelessness.  

From this experience, they have developed a curriculum designed to aid in family planning, smoking cessation during pregnancy and stress management for Bethany House residents and plan to host a health fair this summer.

They served as part of the Urban Health Project (UHP), a nonprofit, UC medical student-run organization that places students who have finished their first year of medical school in summer internships with medical and social service agencies in Greater Cincinnati.

"Some say it’s a nontraditional way for medical students to spend their summer between first and second year, however it has been a perfect fit for me,” says Podell. "As a future physician, I believe I need to be comfortable working with all types of populations and my experiences at Bethany House have definitely prepared me for that.” 

Podell and Prince say the women and children at Bethany House come from diverse backgrounds and have offered some lessons for the two medical students.

"I think spending time at Bethany House will impact my future career immensely,” says Prince. "The thought and care they give to each client that walks through their doors is immeasurable. Each person is treated as if they are family. No judgement is passed and steps are taken to ensure that they get what they need to be successful. This is the type of attitude I want to emulate in my practice one day. I want patients to feel heard, respected and taken care of.”

Twenty-six medical students were at 20 sites this past summer as part of UHP. They will share what they have learned and offer research poster displays during UHP’s annual "Committed to Community Event” held Tuesday, July 24, 2018, at 5:30 p.m. in CARE/Crawley Atrium. The event’s keynote address will be given by Barbara Tobias, MD, Robert and Myfanwy Smith Professor of Family Medicine and vice chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine.

Tobias is also medical director for the Health Collaborative, where she oversees community partnerships, workforce diversity and pipeline efforts. She see patients at the Good Samaritan Free Health Center.

"Our mission is to train socially-responsible physicians through service to underserved populations in Greater Cincinnati,” says Christian Adams, co-director of the Urban Health Project. "Our program offers a paid summer internship for medical students where they are placed with a service partner in the community working directly with underserved populations.”

Sarah Smith, also a co-director of the program, says medical students really enjoy the one-on-one interaction with vulnerable populations. "It offers students a chance to really see the impact of things we are learning in medical school. For example with the opioid epidemic, two of our interns at First Step Home, see the impact this crisis is having on women and children in Greater Cincinnati. It also offers a wonderful chance to make a positive difference in the community.”

Adams says UHP was founded in 1986 and has over 600 alumni, many of them physicians practicing across the nation. In surveys, these alumni say their experience with the project had a lasting impact on their career often affecting the specialties they choose. UHP as part of group project for this year’s interns constructed a mobility ramp for a Tristate resident.

Basil Jafri, who is entering his second year of medical school, says UHP provides an important network for students who want to be engaged in community health and social services. 
"This part of the program is one of the most valuable because we all get the opportunity to participate in some really amazing projects and the sharing of these ideas and programs is essential to improving the work of one another as well as forming connections with the resource agencies,” says Jafri, who spent his summer working with Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio and its Refugee Resettlement program.

Katherine Bopp and Megan Wilson, two medical students entering their second year, say their time at First Step Home, a drug treatment facility for women, left lasting impressions. Bopp and Wilson created a curriculum about nutrition, exercise and infectious diseases and offered their assistance in staffing the facility’s medication room and childcare operations.

Asked if there was a big takeaway, they offered these thoughts:

"There’s no such thing as ‘typical’ person with a substance use disorder,” says Wilson.

Bopp added, "Never assume anything about someone’s past and how they ended up where they are today.”

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