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PPMC and Penn Medicine CAREs in the Community

Penn-UCHS-CAREs-teamAs University City High School (UCHS) students reach the stage of making significant life decisions, a Penn Medicine CAREs grant funds a program to provide them with resources and training to help along the way.

The new program at nearby UCHS, one of the Netter Center for Community Partnership’s university-assisted community schools, includes two parts. The first consists of health education lectures delivered to UCHS students by Family Medicine residents. The second is an internship program for older students interested in medical careers who are enrolled in UCHS’ Twilight classes, an evening school program for students over 17.  

Since 1998, a series of Penn Medicine and Netter Center joint programs have been led by Penn Medicine’s Family Medicine and Community Health department, including Peter Cronholm, MD, MSCE, FAAFP assistant professor of Family Medicine and Community Health and director of community programs.

In the program’s first set of lectures at UCHS, Gabriella Maris, a second-year family medicine resident, responded to the rate of teen pregnancy in West Philadelphia with a four-part series on prenatal care, including fetal development, genetics & toxicology, prenatal milestones & care, and general pediatrics for 10th, 11th, and 12th grade UCHC students.

“As a family doctor (who provides both OB and Pediatrics care), pregnancy can be a very overwhelming time for new moms and dads,” said Maris.  “As clinicians, we are aware of many important fetal milestones and environmental risks for a developing baby.” 

The information empowers the students to help pregnant family and friends, increase their own maternal-fetal awareness, or advance their interests in this area of science and medicine. One family medicine resident is assigned to the community medicine block monthly so that students hear from experts in different areas. Future lectures by other family medicine residents explore the topics of tobacco cessation, nutrition, exercise, hygiene, drugs and alcohol, and more.

Overall, the students were very engaged and asked great questions,” said Maris.  “Whether clinical or educational, I think the students learned a lot and were thankful for the teaching sessions.”

High school students have since turned to Maris for advice, including a pregnant student, a young woman who thought she might be pregnant, students interested in pediatrics, and more.


Internship Program

In addition to supplementing UCHS health classes, the health collaborative includes a paid vocational mentorship program for selected Twilight program students, led by Netter Center Career Specialist Waffiyyah Murray and Patrice Berry, director of the Netter Center’s Student Success Center and site director for UCHS.  

Seeing an interest among UCHS senior students in health care careers, Family Medicine created an 18-week internship program.  Four UCHS students piloted the program at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center’s Penn Family Care four days-a-week, and rotate through four tracks: front desk, medical assistant, nursing, and physician. Mentors volunteer their time in each of these tracks.

Directing the Student Success Center’s internship program, Murray facilitates workshops and weekly professional development sessions at UCHS with the interns as part of the Philadelphia Youth Network’s WorkReady internship program. The program is supported by a grant that pays students while they receive job-training experience.  Murray ensures each student develops a portfolio with important items, such as an updated resume, cover letter, references, letter of recommendation, and a SMART goal that the student aims to achieve during or after the internship. Goals include performing well in the internship and receiving an internship extension, getting into a trade school, and more.

“Getting that hands-on experience working with nurses and other hospital staff, the students get a chance to see what really goes into it and that it’s not just taking blood pressure,” said Murray. “They feel it’s what they really want to do and understand the structure to be successful.”

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