Temple Times Online Edition
    OCTOBER 28, 2004
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Students team up to train, aid needy

Bridging the Gaps lets health science students learn from each other and help the community

Photo courtesy Bridging the Gaps
Medical student Stephanie Pouch worked with children at Luther House this summer as part of the Bridging the Gaps program, which teams health science students in different fields to provide training and community health services.

Twenty-four health sciences students recently capped their inner-city summer community health internships by presenting their experiences and findings at the Bridging the Gaps annual symposium in Philadelphia.

Bridging the Gaps is a nationally recognized program administered jointly by seven academic health centers in Pennsylvania. The program is designed to provide health-related service while training community-responsive health and social service professionals.

The students, who hailed from the School of Pharmacy, the School of Medicine and the occupational therapy department in the College of Health Professions, were paired off in multidisciplinary teams to better replicate real-life working scenarios and were assigned to one of 12 community sites. Assignments were 40 hours a week for seven weeks.

Following are snapshots of their experiences:

Medical student Suja Sabastin and occupational therapy student Sara Burton worked with preschoolers in the Early Learning Center at the Community Women’s Education Project in the Kensington section of North Philadelphia.

“Through this experience, I have been made aware of an invaluable potential collaborator in care management,” Sabastin said. “My partner was a student of occupational therapy and kind and patient enough to elaborate on the scope of this discipline. I am thoroughly impressed at the holistic approach that this healing form takes and feel that it would be a very useful component of care for many of my future patients.”

Medical student Amy DiPlacido and pharmacy student Maitri Shah taught children at the Philadelphia Parent Child Center.

“Our goal was to teach the children about being healthy so that they would have the knowledge at a young age to develop good habits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives,” Shah said.

For a lesson on heart health, “we played hokey-pokey and after all that jumping around, we let them listen to their hearts with a stethoscope,” Shah said. “Some of them were very surprised to hear their hearts beat so fast, and wanted to listen to it over and over again.”

Occupational therapy students Juliet Haberbusch and Kate Gallagher worked with pharmacy student Amanda Stolzfus to plan and create healthy activities for the elderly at the Lutheran Settlement Senior Center in Philadelphia. Gallagher explained how the experience helped her understand the perspectives of those in other healthcare professions.

“Having a pharmacy student there working alongside me was very helpful because most of the seniors had many questions about their pills and the side effects they were experiencing,” she said. “I feel that working together to help the person get the information he or she needs is what community healthcare delivery should be all about.”

Occupational therapy student Samantha Prince and medical student Stephanie Pouch interned at Luther House, a homeless shelter in West Philadelphia. After struggling to implement a health discussion group for the adults, Pouch had an idea.

“I decided to take these issues [heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis] ‘out to the stoop,’ and it was through this action that I felt I was finally able to make a tremendous breakthrough,” she said. She also reversed the roles of educator and pupil, and asked residents for their input on improving health education.

At the Journey Home Community Enrichment Center in North Philadelphia, medical student Stephanie Tessing and occupational therapy student Sonali Patankar were charged with planning and running healthy, fun activities for children.

“We wanted to open their eyes to a world larger than their impoverished reality in North Philadelphia and give them an opportunity to forget the violence and sadness around them so that for a moment they could just be kids,” Tessing said.

Patankar said, “I learned I could help people before I become a certified occupational therapist. I also learned people in need do not necessarily have the means to seek assistance.”

Other Bridging the Gaps Temple teams included:

Medical student Robyn Schultz and pharmacy student Gwen Meehan, who interned at the Drueding Center/Project Rainbow in North Philadelphia, a transitional housing program for women and children.

Occupational therapy student Tasha Sexton and medical student Naomi Schwarz, who were responsible for planning healthy activities for children in the summer camp at Temple Health Connection.

Pharmacy student Jamie Stokes and occupational therapy student Olusayo Olayinka, who worked together on creating programs about health and the environment at Temple Health Connection.

Medical student Aseem Bhandari and pharmacy student Laura Gilbert, who worked with seniors at Gray Manor, an assisted-living facility.

Occupational therapy student Maria Kanakis and pharmacy student Jennifer Du, who interned at the Tioga Senior Center in North Philadelphia.

Medical student Daria Chacon and occupational therapy student Sara Ulmer, who led a project on water pollution with teens at Congreso de Latinos Unidos, a social service agency in North Philadelphia.

Occupational therapy student Kate Wien, who teamed with a student from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia to work at West Poplar Apartments, a housing complex in North Philadelphia.

Bridging the Gaps is supported by a combination of public, private and institutional funding. The program works with more than 100 community-based organizations in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Erie, as well as in a newly developed program in Delaware. In addition to the Community Health Internship, the Philadelphia Bridging the Gaps program also offers a Seminar Series and a Clinical Program.

Students who are interested in Bridging the Gaps can contact Norm Willett, Temple’s program director, at 215-707-4905.

- By Eryn Jelesiewicz