KINGSPORT (March 4, 2013) – When family physicians from East Tennessee State University set out to illustrate the effects of tobacco use recently to Kingsport elementary school students, they employed a tool that is not routinely included in a medical bag: a drinking straw.
“We had the students run in place for about 15 to 30 seconds, and then breathe through a drinking straw while holding their noses,” Dr. Beth Anne Fox said. “And then we told them: ‘This is what it feels like to exercise when you smoke.’”
Fox is an associate professor and director of the medical residency program at ETSU Family Physicians of Kingsport, which presented the tobacco education program “Tar Wars” to fourth- and fifth-grade students at George Washington and John Adams elementary schools.
Two other physicians from the ETSU practice – Drs. Peggy Sue Cavitt and Erin Harris – joined Fox in presenting “Tar Wars” as a free community service. Resident physicians Drs. Paige Gilbert-Green, Travis Groth and Sonia Millan also participated, as well as Amy Nelson, an administrative assistant at the clinic.
“This was a pilot program to see how receptive the schools were, and they were very receptive – the kids enjoyed the presentations and were active in participating,” Fox said. “We asked the students for details they noticed about someone they know who is a smoker, and they responded with great answers.”
Fox said the students remarked on the smoke they could smell on a person’s breath and clothes, persistent coughing, and the pervasive advertisements that feature tobacco. After the program, the physicians invited students to convey what they learned through an original anti-tobacco poster as part of a “Tar Wars” contest.
Dr. Patty Amadio-Cross, a physician independent of the ETSU practice and also an artist, judged the entries, and the poster created by the winner – Elizabeth Burch of Washington Elementary – will advance to statewide competition. The Tennessee winner will then go up against other first-place finishers from throughout the United States.
ETSU Family Physicians awarded Burch a Kindle Fire for her winning poster. The second- and third-place finishers, Vandana Nathan of John Adams and Kristin Thorneloe of Washington, respectively, received prizes as well.