DMU helps kids get a healthy start to the school year

During two recent afternoons at Des Moines University, the Olsen Center was abuzz as DMU students and faculty helped local youth get a healthy start to the coming school year: This year, 10 faculty and 177 student volunteers in the University’s osteopathic medicine, podiatric medicine, physical therapy and physician assistant studies programs worked in interprofessional teams to provide free back-to-school physicals to 116 local youth.

The popular annual event is a win-win for the community and for participating DMU students.

DMU students from four degree programs were ready and eager to serve local youth. (DMU photo by Brett T. Roseman)

“My experience was incredibly rewarding and provided me the opportunity to challenge myself and grow,” says William Chadwick, a student in DMU’s doctor of osteopathic medicine program who volunteered both afternoons. “Having the chance as a student to put my clinical skills to the test while working with and learning from colleagues across other programs at DMU made the event enjoyable, educational and fulfilling.”

William welcomed the opportunity to work with patients in the vision screening area, a new service this year offered in partnership with Prevent Blindness Iowa.

“Vision is such an important aspect of health in school-aged children that is frequently overlooked, leading to impaired learning and participation in daily activities,” he says. “Having the opportunity to screen, refer and provide additional resources to those in need was very rewarding and is something that I am passionate about.”

Danielle Scherb, a student in DMU’s osteopathic medicine program, chose to volunteer because she enjoys working with children and “it seemed like an excellent way to practice clinical skills outside of school.” She also valued the interprofessional aspect of the experience.

“Working with students in other programs and each of us explaining our parts to the families and children showed how we all branch and build off each other,” she says. “Helping these families and learning some of their stories while providing care and working with faculty was the best part for me. It’s something I hope to do again in the future.”

Like her classmates, fellow student volunteer Meghann Chlebowski is motivated to give back to the community. An incoming first-year student in DMU’s doctor of podiatric medicine program, she also used the event to network with others.

DMU President Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., stopped by to greet families.

“It allowed me to get to know not only students in my classes, but also upperclassmen, faculty and staff, and people in the community,” she says. “I didn’t know what to expect from this program in terms of turnout but was pleasantly surprised to see how many people in the community came to this event. It’s a great way for students to practice what they’ve been learning in the classroom. Plus the environment is so fun working with kids!”

Meghann also enjoyed sharing a bit of her own journey during the event.

“I actually had the chance to chat with a participant about what led me to becoming interested in the health care field and eventually to DMU, which made me feel capable of inspiring the next generation of student doctors,” she says.

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