Programs Collaborate in Community Outreach
Stone Spring Health and Wellness Fair
By: Hannah Austin
Posted: April 23, 2013
On Thursday, March 21, students and faculty of James Madison University joined Harrisonburg community members at Stone Spring Elementary School to host the second annual Spring Health and Wellness Fair. The event featured fifteen interactive booths, at which over seventy-five students and their families gained knowledge on various healthcare professions and healthy living in general.
Undergraduate and graduate students of the Occupational Therapy (OT), Physician Assistant (PA), and Pre-Dentistry programs attended, as well as representatives of JMU's adaptive physical education program Overcoming Barriers, JMU’s Dietetics Program, and Health Clinic. Whether teaching kids to wash their hands properly, recognize bones on a skeleton model, or make informed food choices, each group shared the goal of familiarizing children with medical practices and promoting an active, healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Amy Yun's class of twenty Occupational Therapy students (class of 2013) created booths to meet requirements for their OT 651: Community and Health Practice class, as did her class of twenty-four students in HTH 485/OT 585: Psychosocial Perspectives in Occupational Therapy. Each booth featured information presented in five different ways, meant to be equally stimulating and educational for five different audiences: children grades pre-K through first, second through fourth graders, parents, teachers, and school administrators. As Yun explained, applying what they know regarding health literacy in this way gives students a chance to solidify concepts in their own minds, as well as give back to the community.
Peer mentoring, another important aspect of the health fair, allowed second year OT students to demonstrate knowledge and confidence to those in their first year, a group still developing these skills. Additionally by involving students from various disciplines, Yun also hoped to foster increased inter-disciplinary communication, preparing students for necessary collaboration within the medical workforce.
“It can be hard to describe Occupational Therapy in general,” said Yun. “Within all healthcare disciplines there is a tendency for professionals to speak about medical care as if others have the same educational background – of course, this is not the case, and one thing I wanted this project to accomplish was for students to increase their ability to communicate effectively. Similarly, students need to speak in terms that potential clients and patients can understand. The 2nd goal is to enhance inter-disciplinary communication & collaboration where students from different professional & pre-professional programs have opportunities to meet each other & gain insight into the roles of the other professions. The Wellness Fair is an engaging opportunity for students to practice their skills in both of these areas.”
Graduate student and President of the Student Occupational Therapy Association, Jess DiNenno, said, “As a student, the Wellness Fair was a great opportunity to interact with families in the community and learn how to convey information to different age groups. I know it was a big challenge for me to figure out how to explain the concept of a healthy brain to kindergarteners versus teachers/administrators. There is so much JMU students can learn from community members, and vice versa. The Wellness Fair brings these different groups together, and with the variety present, there is something for everyone.”
Another group of Yun's students supervised a booth displaying various instruments and tools used in occupational therapy, such as splints, reachers, and other adaptive tools. The students also used a skeleton model and puzzle to teach about the inner working of the human body, and distributed handouts and activity books for students and their families.
Similarly, the Physician Assistant's booth featured a variety of medical instruments, which JMU students demonstrated by measuring heart rates and blood pressure. PA faculty member Pamela Bailey helped supply mannequin heads and inspective ear and nose instruments, giving children the chance to handle objects they ordinarily see only at a doctor's office.
Erin Caffrey, PA graduate student and President of the JMU Physician Assistant Student Society, said, “One little girl came to our booth, and her mom told us she had a history of ear infections. We used our oto/ophthalmoscope to let her look into the ear model we brought with us and see what it would look like for someone who had an ear infection. We also showed her what a healthy ear would look like, and to show us the difference. She seemed to love it, and what is more, she now understands what a doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner is doing when they look in her ears.”
A similar concept was found at the Pre-Dental Association’s booth, where children could practice using dental tools on a play-doh mouth. Pre-Dental Association’s president, senior student Alyssa Franklin said, “Our goal today is to get kids excited about dentistry. We have information aimed at kids that answers basic hygiene questions associated with brushing and flossing, but it is information that parents often need to be reminded of as well.”
The Dietetics Program and faculty member Lara Sokoloff, JMU’s Dietary Laboratory Manager, handed out a fruit snack in an effort to promote “My Plate.” My Plate replaced the Food Pyramid as the United States Department of Agriculture’s official healthy eating guide in 2011, and consists of the idea that fruits and vegetables should constitute half of every meal.
“Events like the Wellness Fair are important because they give JMU students a chance to give back to the community and not get stuck in the college 'bubble,'” said Yun. “The majority of my students are here because they want to help people, and actually having the opportunity to do that provides them with positive affirmation and motivation. For those who are moving on to hands-on clinical work in June, this experience is especially valuable.”
Yun believes that opportunities for JMU students to give back to the Harrisonburg community will continue to develop. “It would be awesome to have a mobile health and wellness program, and to implement the event at other schools,” said Yun. “The opportunity to grow in the future certainly exists.”
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