Giving kids a healthy start to the school year

DMU students give kids a healthy start to the school year by offering free physicals.

DMU helped organize an event that gave central Iowa kids, many from uninsured and under-insured families, a healthy start to the school year and offered DMU students invaluable opportunities to apply their clinical skills and cultural competency training.

The University offered free physicals in partnership with Children & Family Urban Movement (CFUM), a nonprofit organization that supports the potential of children, youth and families through educational success, healthy living and community engagement. The Polk County Health Department staffed vaccinations, and the Des Moines Health Center mobile dental clinic provided screening opportunities to families as well. Health navigators from Visiting Nurse Services were on hand with information to connect families to resources, and several community members volunteered as translators.

The event involved 92 students from across all clinical programs, as well as University faculty and clinicians.

“I plan to serve in free clinics once I’m licensed, and this was a very similar experience and one I will treasure,” says Taylar Antolik, D.O.’18, M.P.H.’19.

The experience “was a very well-rounded application of the skills we acquired in the clinical medicine laboratories, and it brought together all of the individual SPAL experiences we had throughout the year,” says Whitney Nelson, D.O.’18. “I was able to see children from very different backgrounds and very different family histories. This showed me the varying communication levels within families and how the children’s social and economic backgrounds affected what was found on a physical exam.”

Physical therapy students checked vitals and conducted mobility screenings, and D.O., PA and D.P.M. students worked in pairs to conduct the patient history and physical exam. Supervising clinicians on-site checked and signed off on their work, modeling professional skills.


Always ambassadors for their professions, the enthusiastic students transcended the cramped, hot conditions.

“I got to work with a little girl who wants to go into the health profession, and it was great to see the smile on her face and be able to show her how fun it can be to help people,” says Vicki Nielsen, D.P.T.’17. “Applying the tests in a manner that is appropriate for your patient really applied. Working with kids required us to explain what we meant in a better way that was understood by them. I definitely think this experience will help me as a future clinician and also excites me and reminds me why I am in school.”

DMU students reported strong tie-ins between the experience and their course work. The diversity of patients served also provided insight into cross-cultural communication.

“I had the opportunity to speak with a Somali mother who had recently moved her family here from California, and discuss her son’s complex medical history with her,” says Jason Parviz, D.O.’18. “It really highlighted the difficulty people can have maintaining appropriate and continuous care, and how much harder it can be if you are poor or from a minority group.”

Christianna Jahn, D.O.’18, says she incorporated lessons from the Diversity Health Series into her interactions at the event. “For patients that needed translators, I remembered to look at the patient and focus on them and not the translator so that the patient knew a language barrier wasn’t going to keep me from interacting directly with them and caring for them,” Jahn says.

For some students, connecting with patients also involved more personal conversations.

DSC03775“I will never forget having a little girl explain all about her Muslim culture to me while I was conducting her physical,” says Taylar Antolik, D.O.’18. “She was so passionate about teaching me all that she knew in such a short amount of time. It was truly inspiring to see her innocence and that she had no boundaries. It didn’t matter if we practiced the same religion or had the same beliefs; I was her doctor and she wanted me to know all I could about her as a whole person. I plan to serve in free clinics once licensed and this was a very similar experience and one I will treasure.”

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