UNMC students complete first phase of service learning project

by Chuck Brown, UNMC public affairs | January 02, 2009

More than 140 students from the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health, recently completed part one of UNMC's inaugural Service Learning Program (SLP).

The program lets students:

  • See first-hand the health care needs of Omaha's underserved communities;
  • Design multidisciplinary strategies to meet these needs; and
  • Become involved with community service.

As the part of the program, the students were divided into 21 groups with each being assigned an underserved area of the city in which to work.

"We were encouraged by the student and community reactions to the program," said Ruth Margalit, M.D., assistant professor in the College of Public Health and a member of UNMC's SLP committee. "We realize UNMC students have many demands on their time and we're grateful so many took the time to participate in this program. We do hope to create more of these opportunities for community collaboration in the future."

"We were encouraged by the student and community reactions to the program. ... We do hope to create more of these opportunities for community collaboration in the future."

Ruth Margalit, M.D.

Over a three-month period, the student groups designed service-learning projects to address the most pressing health care needs of their assigned areas.

During an event in November that featured comments from UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., and Patrick McNamara, Ph.D., of the Omaha Foundation, on the importance of service learning, students and others involved with the program selected the three best projects, which will be implemented during the next phase of the project.

The selected projects were:

  • "Decreasing the Donor Deficit: A community-based approach to educate and recruit African American bone marrow donors," by Solomon Connealy, Natalie Hart, Gautam Malhotra, Shelley Nelson, Alexander Schutz and Emily Sorrell. The group's mentor was Kristen Cook, Ph.D.;
  • "The Empower Clinic: Domestic Violence Healthcare Screening and Education," by Robert Dahlquist, Jenna Hill, Kevin Masek, Julie Stecher, Kelly Zach and Marinda Wells. The group's mentor was Gary Yee, Pharm.D.; and
  • "H.E.L.P. HIV/AIDS Education for Life Program," by Chiraag Gangahar, Jacob Gibbens, Brynn Lastovica, Samantha Milne, John Morrison, Benton Nelson and Angelique Walstrom. The group's mentor was Mary Helms.

UNMC is one of just 20 institutions in the nation that facilitate SLPs, which are supported by Association of Prevention Research and Teaching grants.

Dr. Margalit said the work of faculty mentors and the UNMC SLP committee was integral in making the project a success to this point. The SLP committee members were:

  • Tina Flores, M.D., associate professor in the College of Medicine;
  • Susan Beidler, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Nursing;
  • Dean Collier, Pharm.D., assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy; and
  • Wayne Stuberg, Ph.D., professor at the Munroe-Meyer Institute.

Dr. Margalit said many others also provided crucial support to the program including Sonya Smith, Ed.D., J.D., assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs; Ron Bechdolt, coordinator of the College of Medicine Integrated Clinical Experience; and Alice Schumaker, Ph.D., of the College of Public Health.