UW News

May 21, 2009

UW medical students head back to middle school

Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering

It’s a busy Friday morning at Madrona K-8 in Seattle, Wash., and 60 UW medical students have joined the throngs of kids on May 15 moving through the hallways. The medical students are here to provide free sports physical exams to students as part of the Community Health Advancement Program, also known as CHAP.

“It’s a great way to reinforce skills, and great if you are interested in becoming a pediatrician,” said Meagan Dodge, a second-year medical student.

CHAP was started at the UW in 1980, with an aim to nurture the ideas and goals of students interested in working with medically underserved populations. The program sponsors community service projects and is supported by UW Family Medicine faculty.

More than 30 students at Madrona K-8 are scheduled to receive free exams. Without the exams, many students may not be able to obtain the Seattle School district’s mandated physical clearance for participation in school athletics. Some insurance plans, for example, do not have a provision for the exam.

A high percentage of students in the school are among the underserved and qualify for things like free or reduced price meals, said Ian Maki, CHAP program operation manager. “We provide a service and help to detect potential health problems,” he said.

Maki said it’s the second year for this activity at Madrona K-8. Students conduct similar exams at Catharine Blaine School in Magnolia; that program has been up and running for 18 years. Support for the program is provided by the Glaser Foundation, a Bellevue, Wash.-based nonprofit that supports services for children.

First-year medical students are matched up with the middle schoolers and take vital signs, including blood pressure, height and weight. Due to the recent H1N1 (swine) flu outbreak and school closure, medical students were being “extra cautious” to screen for flu symptoms, said Jennifer Wild, a second-year medical student and organizer of the event.

Medical students also review a medical history form with students (filled out by parents at home) and conduct a musculoskeletal exam as part of a comprehensive physical. Temporary exam rooms that provide privacy for a more in-depth exam were set up early in the morning by students and organizers.

Dr. Sharon Dobie, faculty lead and UW professor, said CHAP activities help show students that health really starts at the community or population level. “The program allows students to engage in communities that otherwise would have an unmet need, and it helps them get involved in efforts that promote health in those communities,” she said. “It also helps medical students recognize that their voice and responsibilities extend far beyond clinical care delivered in an office.”

The middle schoolers are all smiles as they walk to different stations and chat with their medical student “doctors.” And, in turn, the “doctors” seem pretty happy, too. “The best part for me is that we’re able to provide what some people would consider a routine exam,” said Nick Serrano, organizer and second-year medical student. “We’re helping out a community that really needs it.”