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Schweitzer Fellow prescribes a dose of story time for young clinic patients

 
 

Anne Flower, OSM-II, reads with 7-year-old Destiny Reasoner
at the pediatrics clinic of University Medical Associates.

 
 
(ATHENS, Ohio — Nov. 25, 2014) Anne Flower is wearing the short white coat of the physician in training. But at the moment, she’s bent over a children’s picture book with a 7-year-old girl.

Flower, a second-year student in the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, reads aloud a passage from P.D. Eastman’s “My Nest is Best,” then pauses to talk about the story and illustrations. “What do you think is going to happen next?” Flower asks Destiny Reasoner, who’s listening in rapt attention. “What animal is that? What kind of sound does he make?”

The two are in the waiting room of the University Medical Associates pediatric clinic in Ohio University’s Parks Hall in Athens, where Destiny’s mother has brought her for an appointment. As with other children the clinic serves, the girl’s visit earned her a bonus in the form of a reading session and a free book.

It’s all part of a project Flower has organized in connection with her 2014-15 Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. She’s one of 18 graduate students in the Columbus-Athens area to receive this honor. A second Heritage College student, third-year Adam Jara, is also a Schweitzer Fellow, as is Lauren Volpe, a graduate student in Ohio University’s Patton College of Education. The program selects and supports about 250 new U.S. graduate students each year, each of whom partners with a community-based organization to create and carry out a year-long service project to address unmet health needs. The participants also go through a rigorous leadership development program.

Heritage College Executive Dean Kenneth Johnson, D.O., praised the program for its value to students and area residents.

“This program is a win for everyone involved,” Johnson said. “Our students get the transformative learning experience of creating programs that address pressing health care needs in underserved communities. And the people served by these programs end up better equipped to look after their own health and well-being.”

Flower’s project aims to intervene early in the lives of area children to instill the joys of literacy by enlisting volunteer readers to demonstrate read-aloud behavior for parents and engage kids and by giving the children books to read at home.

“The providers, the pediatricians, will give out books to patients at six months, 12 months, 18 months, two years, and then three to five years,” Flower explained. “So the goal of the program is that every pediatric patient has three to five books in their home that are appropriate for their age by the time they start school. And it’s fun, because then you get to leave the office with a book, and you don’t remember the fact that you just got a shot. You remember that you got a book, and that’s way more fun!”

Flower, who’s from Cincinnati, got involved in the national Reach Out and Read program while an undergraduate at Regis University in Denver. The program’s mission is to prepare children to succeed in school by partnering with physicians to “prescribe books and encourage families to read together.”

She noted that Reach Out and Read’s research finds that parents who get involved with program “are up to four times more likely to read with their kids at home, and then those kids are better prepared to start kindergarten. Even if they don’t have the prose literacy skills yet, they still are familiar with books and with reading, and they think of it as a fun and enjoyable activity to do together. So they say that reading is doctor-recommended or doctor-prescribed.”

The Parks Hall clinic had a Reach Out and Read program when Flower arrived, but it lacked its two most essential components – volunteers and books to give away. Flower is solving the first problem by pitching the program to student groups.

“I approached the Pediatrics Club at their meeting, and I have 30 people who wrote their names down that they were interested,” she said.

The second problem was solved with the help of supporters including the Patton College’s Stevens Literacy Center, which provided nearly 1,300 books; and OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital and the Heritage College’s Area Health Education Center (AHEC), which provided financial support of $1,000 and $500 respectively. “I found that so many groups were so excited to get on board and get involved and really generous with their funds,” Flower said.

Kathy Trace, director of Community Health Programs/AHEC at the Heritage College, coordinates Schweitzer fellowship activities at Ohio University She said Flower’s efforts fit in well with the mission of those two programs. “Two of the goals at AHEC and the Consortium for Health Education in Appalachia Ohio are to provide community resources to improve health and to support education for health professionals in underserved areas,” Trace noted. “I see the $500 to purchase materials for the Reach Out and Read Program as supporting both of those initiatives.” More information on how to apply for a Schweitzer fellowship is available on the program’s website, at http://www.schweitzerfellowship.org/chapters/columbus/application/.

 
 
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