JOHNSON CITY (July 16, 2013) – Students at East Tennessee State University's James H. Quillen College of Medicine learn not only the things that all future doctors must learn – medical techniques, patient histories and the disease process – but also focus on an area that is intrinsic to the Quillen history: community service.
Quillen has formalized the spirit of community-building by incorporating service learning into the curriculum, and first-year medical students performed more community outreach hours in the spring 2013 semester than ever before. The Class of 2016 logged 914 hours of service to 28 area agencies and organizations, including Carver Recreation Center, Coalition for Kids, Habitat for Humanity, Johnson City Senior Services, Remote Area Medical Clinic, the Salvation Army and Second Harvest Food Bank.
Dr. Theresa Lura, assistant dean of Medical Education for the College of Medicine, and Dr. Ramsey McGowen, a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, co-teach "Profession of Medicine: Patients, Physicians and Society," and service learning became a part of that course as part of the college's curriculum revision.
"Service learning is an integral part of who we are because of the history of community service in our college and the university," Lura said. "The goal is not just to provide a service to community organizations, but for service to be an avenue for learning."
Service learning occurs in two phases. The first step occurs each fall semester when new medical students attend a Community Agency Fair, developed with assistance from Teresa Brooks Taylor, ETSU Office of Service Learning in the Department of Counseling and Human Service, and coordinated by Lisa Myers, Quillen Office of Academic Affairs, at which they meet representatives from 20 or more non-profit organizations. Throughout the semester, students visit three of those agencies to explore in more depth where the agency is located and the individual and community needs that the organizations serve.
During the second phase, students select one agency in which they provide 10 hours or more of service during their spring semester. This service learning project allows the medical students to contribute to their community while learning about agencies that can provide different types of support where needed to their future patients.
Service learning activities continue in the third year of the curriculum when students are involved in providing preventive services through a series of rural outreach health fairs. Under the leadership of Dr. Joe Florence, director of Rural Programs, the College of Medicine partners with several rural communities in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to provide needed services to uninsured patients in underserved communities.
These activities provide excellent learning opportunities while offering important health care services to patients. A typical health fair provides over $50,000 in services to each community served, and approximately 1,000 patients are served each year through eight health fairs.