Student Corner: Medical student grant project

A team of Baylor College of Medicine medical students and faculty advisors recently was selected to receive the 2018 Medical Student Service Leadership Project Grant, awarded by the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.

The award is a $9,000, three-year grant to fund a leadership training program anchored in a student-led community service project.

Second-year medical students Grace Gannon and Elizabeth Adams conceived the service project and partnered with fourth-year student mentors and Alpha Omega Alpha officers Geneva White and Abigail Garbarino as well as faculty mentors Dr. Jill D’Souza and their honor society counselor Dr. Daniel Chelius to write the grant, Baylor College of Medicine Refugee Health Education Initiative: Leadership Development through Service.

The team will use the funds to partner with local refugee support organizations to create basic healthcare and safety videos to be used in the orientation of new refugees in the Houston area. The videos will be produced with local refugee high school students helping write culturally relevant scripts that will then be dubbed into multiple languages.

Leaders of the Alpha Omega Alpha grant focused on refugee health.

Houston has the largest refugee population of any city in the United States and there are few accessible resources for refugee children to show them how to navigate social, cultural and educational expectations of American society, such as bike and pedestrian safety, how to maintain dental hygiene and how to access emergency services. The current gold standard, the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Curriculum, focuses on rights and social expectations in the United States, but the curriculum is communicated entirely in English. Other materials that exist are in Spanish, but refugees in the Houston-area represent a wide variety of ethnicities, including Cuban, Iraqi, Afghani, Syrian, Eritrean, Sudanese, Congolese, Somali, Burmese and Bhutanese.

The students proposed creating short videos to be used in the classroom or at home that are targeted toward elementary school-aged refugees. The team also has partnered with students who participate in afterschool programs with the Partnership for Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (PAIR), which creates a safe space for refugee students in middle and high school to build social and emotional skills with the aid of community mentors. The students in the PAIR program will help select topics for the videos and will write and act in them.

Through a partnership with the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, the videos will be translated into common refugee languages, such as Swahili and Arabic.

The medical students also developed a leadership training curriculum centered on the project.

“This grant will allow our students to help fill a critical health education need in the community while also sharpening their leadership and organizational skills heading into residency,” said Chelius. “This is a wonderful example of the ways we can use the honor society’s platforms to enrich and empower our Baylor community. Our Alpha Omega Alpha Executive Committee is proud of these students and their selfless work.”

The Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society is a national medical honor society that was founded in 1902. Election into the society signifies a lasting commitment to scholarship, leadership, professionalism and service. A lifelong honor, membership confers recognition for a physician’s dedication to the profession and art of healing.

In addition to Drs. D’Souza and Chelius, both assistant professors of otolaryngology, multiple faculty members will lead topical leadership training sessions as part of the grant. They include Dr. Teri Turner, associate professor of pediatrics; Dr. Ellis Arjmand, professor of otolaryngology and chief of the division of pediatric otolaryngology; Dr. Jean Raphael, assistant professor of pediatrics; Dr. Ellen Friedman, professor of otolaryngology and Director of the Center for Professionalism in Medicine at Baylor; Dr. Larry Hollier, professor and chair of plastic surgery and surgeon-in-chief of Texas Children’s Hospital; and Dr. Elton Lambert, assistant professor of otolaryngology.

Community partners include Sarah Howell, social worker at Las Americas School and Shaina Holm and Mariel Sanchez, project managers at PAIR.

Each year of the grant, two new honor society officers will join the project team, including 2018-2019 officers Colette Kendrick and Talia Noorily.