Black History Month 2016

Feb. 24, 2016 MCW News - In honor of Black History Month, the Medical College of Wisconsin has created a series of video vignettes and stories that are being posted on InfoScope during the month of February. The vignettes highlight some of our African American and Black faculty and staff and the contributions they have made. The stories highlight MCW programs that improve the health of underserved populations (including African American and Black), offer these populations improved access to healthcare and education, and reduce health disparities.

All of the vignettes and stories will be added to MCW’s Honoring Diversity Web page as they are published.

This story highlights a few of the programs within our education and community engagement missions.

Education Programs

Urban and Community Health Pathway
Created in 2009, the Urban and Community Health Pathway links training with community needs and assets to prepare students to care for patients in urban, underserved settings, promote community health and reduce health disparities. Using a service learning model, students partner with communities of color to address high-priority health needs. Examples of some of the partnerships in place (and the partners involved) include:

  • Health careers education at James Madison High School (AHEC Youth Health Service Corps)
  • Wellness Wednesdays (NeuLife Community Development) 
  • Health programming at three homeless shelters (Guesthouse, Milwaukee Women's Center and Walkers Point)
  • Asthma Smarts – self-care education to kids with asthma (Fight Asthma Milwaukee Allies, and Milwaukee Public Schools)
  • Food Doctors – nutrition education to grade school kids (Milwaukee Academy of Science, Lake Valley Camp)
  • Fitness and Nutrition (FAN) Club – see below (All–Saints Family Care Center and Clara Barton Elementary School)
  • Elder Health Education in public housing (SET Ministry) and through inner-city churches
  • Transportation issues, nutrition profiling and inventory assessment in local food pantries (Friedens Community Ministries)

One project, Determining the Effect of a Fitness and Nutrition Curriculum on Elementary School Students and their Family, introduces third-grade students from Clara Barton Elementary School to the National Health Education Standards through weekly interactive teaching and mentorship sessions. Third-year MCW medical students Michael Peyton and MacMichael Jensen, along with Jenny Ovide, a community nurse advocate from All Saints Family Care Center, created a curriculum that encompasses the food groups, how to read nutrition labels, snacking versus portion control, and the basics of metabolism, exercise, and body image. At the end of the year, all the classes that participated in the Fitness and Nutrition Club (also known as the FAN Club), will go to the Wheaton Franciscan Family Medicine Clinic to plant vegetables in the garden. At the beginning of the next school year, they will have an opportunity to harvest their tomatoes for the annual Salsa Party!

Diversity education pipeline programs
MCW has several diversity education pipeline programs designed to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to consider careers in medicine and the biomedical sciences. Two of the summer programs are offered to undergraduate students interested in medicine or biomedical research, and three of the programs are geared toward local high school students.

The high school programs include the Apprenticeship in Medicine (AIM) program, the Research Opportunity for Academic Development in Science (ROADS) program, and the ACS Project SEED summer research program.

The Apprenticeship in Medicine Program (AIM) was launched in 1989 to provide academically talented students from diverse backgrounds with the opportunity to learn more about careers in medicine and allied health. Since 1996, 279 students have graduated from AIM, with a substantial portion of these students continuing their education in college.

The program is designed to educate students about common medical problems in their communities, provide them with hands-on opportunities in medicine, and encourage them to attend college or university and pursue a career in medicine. Students spend most of their time in an instructional environment, but also attend area clinics one day per week to maximize learning opportunities and time with positive role models.

The Research Opportunity for Academic Development in Science (ROADS) program was launched in 1990 and is intended to motivate high school students from diverse backgrounds to consider careers as physicians and scientists. One hundred and twenty-nine students have participated in the ROADS program since it was first implemented, and a study of the program’s enrollees from 1996 to 2014 found that 68% graduated from high school.

As part of the ROADS program, each student completes a bench or community research project guided by his or her faculty preceptor. Students also are required to attend scheduled lecture sessions on types of research, research analysis, ethics, and the use of simulations in medicine. During the final week of the program, an informal research symposium is held to allow students to share the results of their work with faculty, members of their labs and their peers.

The ACS Project SEED summer research program offers economically disadvantaged students entering their junior or senior year in high school the chance to experience what it’s like to be a chemist. For seven weeks, SEED students work with faculty researchers who help them develop laboratory, written and oral skills. In addition to hands-on research, Project SEED students receive guidance on their career and personal development.

The Diversity Summer Health-Related Research Education Program (DSHREP) allows undergraduate students to explore their interests in science and technology through a summer research training experience supervised by full-time MCW faculty. The Environmental Health Science Program (ENVIR) allows select students who demonstrate an interest in environmental research acceptance into the ENVIR program. Students selected for this program will follow the basic structure of the DSHREP program.

Qualified students who are accepted into the 10-week program are “matched” with a full-time faculty investigator to participate in a research project(s) addressing the causes, prevention, and treatment of cardiovascular, pulmonary and hematological diseases.  Each student-researcher is required to provide an abstract of their research and present a brief presentation of their project at the conclusion of the summer experience. Our outcome tracking found that approximately 80.9% of undergraduate students from 1996-2014 have pursued medicine as a career, with a small number still in medical school.

If any faculty member would like to get involved in one of these programs or serve as a mentor/preceptor, please contact Jean Mallett, MBA, in the Office of Student Affairs/Diversity, jdmallett@mcw.edu or 955-8735. 

Reach Out and Read-Milwaukee
Operated by faculty and staff in the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Department of Pediatrics, Reach Out and Read-Milwaukee (ROR-M) is a pediatric early literacy promotion program that fosters an enriched environment in the homes of underserved and low-income families, including African Americans, Hispanics and Hmong populations, by providing culturally-oriented books and encouraging parents to read to children as early as six months of age. Initiated in 1998, it is a joint program of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

The distribution of new books occurs at well-child check-ups with the pediatrician; the children are allowed to select a new book to take home. ROR-M creates literacy-rich waiting areas in the healthcare centers by stocking those areas with gently-used book.  There, volunteer readers model reading aloud to children and families to illustrate reading techniques for children up to five years of age.  Children older than five years can select a gently-used book to bring home and parents/guardians may benefit from a visual screening to procure reading glasses.  ROR-M distributed more than 16,000 new or gently-used culturally- and developmentally appropriate books in calendar year 2014.  This, in turn, has positively influenced the literacy environment for those children throughout the eight inner city ROR-M sites.

The eight sites in Milwaukee where ROR-M books are distributed include the Downtown Health Center, the 16th Street Community Health Center (Chavez and Parkway sites), the Martin Luther King Heritage Health Center, the Isaac Coggs Heritage Health Center, Next Door Pediatrics and Progressive Community Health Centers (Lisbon Avenue and Hillside sites).  Recent assessment of the frequency of literacy activities by parents/caregivers within these sites reveals that healthcare providers sharing four or more books, positively correlates with increased caregiver-child reading frequency.   

Reach Out and Read National Center and the Wisconsin ROR Coalition supports ROR-M by supplying new book credits alone with other local philanthropy organizations (i.e., WE Energies and Herzfeld).  Although Reach Out and Read National Center and Wisconsin ROR Coalition staff continue to educate policymakers on the significant foundations of literacy (beginning in infancy) and the importance of taking a life course approach to education and early brain development, it will be critical for ROR-M to stabilize funding to secure quality and vitality of this program.

Community Engagement Programs

Project Ujima
Project Ujima, created in 1995, is a violence intervention and prevention program committed to stopping the cycle of violent injuries to our youth. A partnership between Children's Hospital of Wisconsin clinical and community services and the Medical College of Wisconsin, the program annually serves more than 380 youth ages 7-18 who suffer assaults, stabbings and firearm injuries as well as more than 500 adult victims of homicide, intimate partner violence, robbery and assault.

Many of the children who are cared for through the program come from underserved populations, including the African American community. Since it was launched, more than 4,000 adolescents with injuries due to interpersonal violence have been treated in the Emergency Department/Trauma Center at Children’s Hospital. Violent injuries are associated with psychological trauma, poor school performance and repeat incidents of violence. Project Ujima uses a network of services that assist with physical, psychological and social recovery using the arts, education, career development, sports and faith-based communities.

A national model, Project Ujima received the Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services from the Department of Justice in 2004. Project Ujima is a founding member of the National Network of Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs and helps other hospitals start similar services within their communities.

In 2006, Project Ujima expanded its services to adults, and since that time has worked closely with the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission and hospital trauma centers to assist survivors of violence.

In January 2016, Project Ujima relocated its offices to the Sojourner Family Peace Center, on 6th and Cherry, which also houses the Child Advocacy Center, Sojourner Family Peace Center, and Milwaukee Police Department’s Sensitive Crimes offices.  The new location brings multiple services to families in one supportive setting and provides space for group activities and support.

Center for Healthy Communities and Research
MCW formed the Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) in 1997 to develop community-academic partnerships that improve health in Wisconsin urban and rural communities. In 2010, CHC converted to the Center for Healthy Communities and Research (CHCR) to combine both the center and the research divisions of Family and Community Medicine.

The goals of the CHCR are to develop, implement and sustain community-academic partnerships that promote health, conduct and disseminate research to address community-identified health needs, and collaborate to expand community-academic partnerships. Core areas of research are in the areas of behavioral health, health disparities and community health education.  CHCR partners have included Milwaukee Public Schools, S.E.T. Ministry, Inc. (Serve, Empower, and Transform), United Community Center, the Milwaukee County Department on Aging, the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee, and the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative.  

Many of the CHCR urban partnerships are with organizations that address the health needs of underserved populations including the African American and Black communities. An example is the Sisters Diversion Program, developed in partnership with the Benedict Center, Milwaukee Police Department, and the District Attorney’s Office. The goal of the program is to create a public health centered harm-reduction policy that promotes treatment, housing, and employment instead of arrest, fines and incarceration to address the serious health and safety risks women incur in street prostitution. The Sisters program includes a full time program director and outreach workers who provide intensive case management and resources for women. Group sessions for women encourage support, self-love, and problem solving which are critical for those with histories of trauma. The program was a recipient of the 2015 MANDI (Milwaukee Awards for Neighborhood Development Innovation) PNC Bank Trailblazer award and Wells Fargo People’s Choice award for work that revitalizes Milwaukee’s most distressed urban neighborhoods.  

Silver Spring Neighborhood Center
The Medical College of Wisconsin has teamed up with the United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee (UNCOM), and specifically Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, to develop worksite wellness initiatives with the staff that help improve knowledge, attitudes and behaviors around type 2 diabetes. The signature program from this past year was called Salad with the Staff. As part of the monthly sessions, Center participants eat a healthy salad-based lunch and then discuss a health topic such as coffee and caffeine, stress, mindful eating and health over the holidays.

Several staff members have attended all the sessions, and the reviews have been positive. In 2015, the team will focus on healthful eating behaviors with the assistance of a dietician from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Silver Spring Neighborhood Center serves community members on the northwest side of Milwaukee, who are predominantly Black and African American, including individuals located in Westlawn, Wisconsin’s largest low-income housing development.

Working to improve breastfeeding lactation support

Breastfeeding ensures the best possible health, development, and psychosocial outcomes for infants, but studies have shown significantly lower rates of breastfeeding in the Black, African American and other under-represented communities in Milwaukee County. The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to partner with the African American Breastfeeding Network to increase breastfeeding lactation support in the workplace within these communities.

The primary goal of the project is increase business engagement and participation in the implementation of lactation support among women returning to the workforce in Milwaukee County and to change social norms regarding the expression of breast milk in the workplace. The project is being rolled out in neighborhoods and businesses where a higher percentage of low income-women are in the workforce.  Strategies for accomplishing changes will be initiated with six mentor businesses supporting 12 mentee businesses designing and implementing a lactation support policy.  

It is expected that this project will increase awareness of the Fair Labor Standards Act that encourages businesses to implement efforts to promote breastfeeding.  Low-income women in the workforce, including Black, African American and Latino women, will benefit from this initiative.     

Sheri Johnson, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Community), and Ashley Hines, Program Coordinator for the Office of Global Health and for the National Coalition Building Institute, both serve on the African American Breastfeeding Network Board of Directors, as President and Secretary, respectively.

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