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KU Wichita Pediatrics helps fifth grade class find health care solutions, win challenge

July 22, 2020

Resident doctor talks to children in classroom

Sarah Carlson, M.D., a recent graduate of the Pediatrics Residency Program, talks to fifth grade students at Mueller Aerospace and Engineering Magnet School in Wichita about their ideas to improve heatlh care access.

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

This past spring, a local arts-in-education organization, a classroom of fifth graders at a Wichita elementary school and the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita Department of Pediatrics joined together to create a winning project to help improve access to health care for children in Wichita.

For the past two years, Arts Partners has been running a program called Generation STEAM to help students in Title I Wichita elementary schools learn more about science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, known collectively as STEAM.

This past year, the Generation STEAM program focused on using what are known as social determinants of health (SDOH) as the basis for the students' projects. SDOH are the conditions in places where people live, learn, work and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.

In the Wichita public school district, more than 75% of its nearly 50,000 students have the challenge of poverty and 49 of USD 259's schools receive Title I funding, which is federal assistance given to schools with higher numbers or percentages of lower-income children.

"Those students are living firsthand the social determinants of health," said Ellamonique Baccus, executive director of Arts Partners, who came up with this year's Generation STEAM focus.

SDOH "lead the health disparities that we are concerned about," said Brian Pate, M.D., a professor who chairs the Department of Pediatrics at KU School of Medicine-Wichita and is also the interim vice chair of the Department of Population Health. Pate was one of four volunteers from KU School of Medicine-Wichita who worked with the winning classroom to understand access to health care.

"I thought it was a brilliant idea to have the students working on projects that could mitigate their risk factors," Pate said. Resident doctor talks to children in classroom

When the fifth graders in Glen Williams' class at Mueller Aerospace and Engineering Magnet School looked at what challenges they have in getting medical access, "kids said they don't have Band-Aids at home and the only time they see a nurse is at school," Baccus said.

Their solution to provide first aid kits to students and create a clinic in a shipping container in their neighborhood won this year's Generation STEAM design challenge. The students created a video explaining their project, which is available on the Arts Partners Wichita Facebook page. One student narrator explains how many students only get health care in the nurse's office 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

"Whenever we get home, we don't have Band-Aids, first aid kits or medicine," the young girl says. Another student shows a model of a clinic the class designed with the help of Arts Partners engineering educator Adam Payton that could help provide health care outside of school hours.

Thanks to a $50,000 Next Generation of Philanthropy grant from the Wichita Community Foundation, Arts Partners has the money to invest in making the winning solution a reality.

"We're going to use the funds to produce first aid kits for every K-5 student at Mueller, plus for the students in the winning classroom," who will be sixth graders this fall, Baccus said. The precautions and uncertainty created by COVID-19, along with staffing the clinic, have created some challenges for implementing the students' clinic idea, Baccus said.

A winning partnership and solution

Williams' class was the only one of the eight classrooms involved in the Generation STEAM project to look at access to health care, Baccus said. Other classrooms worked on projects that addressed other challenges, such as clean air, clean water, pollution, education, access to food and access to housing.

To help the students unResidents and faculty stand in front of classroomderstand more about health care, Baccus reached out to Pate, who knew her from when Baccus provided art therapy services for patients at Wesley Children's Hospital, where residents in Pate's department also work.

"We have a passion for the kids we serve and when she contacted me about this project that she was doing at Arts Partners, I thought it was awesome," Pate said.

Along with Pate, Deborah Alliston, M.D., M.Ed., associate professor and residency program director with the pediatrics department, and Sarah Carlson, M.D., and Shandi Appier, M.D., two pediatrics residents at the time, visited Williams' classroom to talk about their perspectives on the problems of health care access.

Getting kids to see that they can be involved in solving problems both now and in the future is important, said Baccus.

"The whole point was self-efficacy so they can see themselves doing this one day," she said.

Plus, getting to meet professionals and be mentored by them - like those from KU School of Medicine-Wichita - can be what Baccus calls "a powerful interaction."Doctor's white coat custom designed by fifth graders

Getting to interact with students was "one of the coolest parts of this whole experience," Pate said. "The students had written down questions to ask us and one student said, ‘I want to be a doctor and take care of kids so how do I do that?'"

Pate also volunteered for another Arts Partners program that combined fifth grade students with fashion designers to create fashions related to SDOH. With Pate as the community role model, students and local designer Thomas Cottner created a custom-designed doctor's coat to represent the access to health care social determinant. An early fall event, in which the fashion pieces would have been modeled and auctioned, was canceled because of COVID-19 concerns. Arts Partners plans to showcase the students' work in a series of videos on its website.

The Department of Pediatrics at KU School of Medicine-Wichita purchased the coat with plans to display it, according to Pate.

Above, right: Shandi Appier, M.D., third-year resident, talks to fifth graders about their Generation STEAM project.

Above, left: Shandi Appier, M.D., Sarah Carlson, M.D., Deborah Alliston, M.D., M.Ed., and Brian Pate, M.D.

Above, lower right: A doctor's white coat, custom-designed by students and fashion designers to represent the access to health care social determinant, will be purchased by the Department of Pediatrics at KU School of Medicine-Wichita.

KU School of Medicine-Wichita
Last modified: Jul 23, 2020
Media Inquiries:

Belinda Venters

KU School of Medicine–Wichita
Public Affairs
1010 N. Kansas
Wichita, KS, 67214

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