JOHNSON CITY – Quillen College of Medicine students take part in numerous community outreach endeavors – from Remote Area Medical Events to Habitat for Humanity – in keeping with the college’s mission to reach the underserved. One opportunity unique to Quillen allows students to have an impact close to home, in the Carver Community of downtown Johnson City.
“Color My World Healthy” benefits both young and old in this predominantly Black community.
Through this program, Quillen students design and teach classes to students in after-school activities at the city’s Carver Recreation Center and Langston Centre in downtown. They teach such topics as nutrition, fitness, anatomy, and more. “Meet the Doctor” helps the children understand the need for medical doctors and that there is no need to be afraid to go to the doctor. A “Keep Kids Off Drugs” class is sometimes taught in tandem with Gatton College of Pharmacy students.
The program is dear to the heart of Elaine Evans, who recently retired as the community consumer health specialist at Quillen College of Medicine Library.
“We have a captive audience,” says Evans, who applied for the initial $25,000 grant to fund the program from the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health. “After they finish their homework, they come to class. ‘Meet the Doctor’ is their favorite. They love it. The medical students bring their instruments and show them, ‘This is how we listen to your heart.’”
As an offshoot of the youth program, Color My World Healthy has expanded its reach to the adults in the community, both at Carver Rec and neighboring churches, with health fairs and classes on health topics specific to minority groups and the elderly.
It is hoped that “Color My World Healthy” will have another benefit besides educating youth on health topics – that of recruiting more minority students to the health professions.
Professor Rick Wallace of the QCOM Library points to a disheartening statistic from the “Black Men in White Coats” documentary that was screened at Carver in 2021, which is that 4% of physicians are African Americans. And Evans notes that only two African American men from the Johnson City-Washington County area have graduated from Quillen.
“What I get, from having my ear to the ground,” Evans says, “is that they graduate from high school thinking, ‘There’s no way I can go to college and become anything. I’m poor; my parents don’t have any money.’ So we want to start at the elementary and then high school level, and make minority kids aware that ‘Yes, there is a path for you. You just have to learn what it is and how to follow it.’”
Through “Color My World Healthy,” med students like Michaela Williamson spend one-on-one time with students, including in the “How to Become a Doctor” class, sharing their own stories and describing the pathway to becoming physicians, nurses, and other health professionals.
“We’re all really excited about tutoring and teaching about different medical disciplines,” said Williamson, a second-year medical student from Hendersonville, Tennessee, who is president of the Student National Medical Association chapter at Quillen. “The reason that a lot of us, myself included, came to Quillen is because we want to work in underserved areas, and we want to recruit as much diversity to medicine as possible. Carver Rec is a community hub, and to get plugged in there will be an opportunity not just for us to work with those kids, but also network and see where else we’re needed. A lot of people in our organization have a real passion for community service work.”