University of Vermont

College Celebrates Class of 2016 Public Health Projects and Program’s 10th Anniversary

Second-year UVM medical students discuss their Public Health Project with Vermont Commissioner of Health Harry Chen, M.D.
Second-year UVM medical students discuss their Public Health Project with Vermont Commissioner of Health Harry Chen, M.D. (Photo: Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

From physician education about Alzheimer’s screening to improving access to dental care for pregnant women, University of Vermont College of Medicine students in the Class of 2016 have been busy working on public health projects that make positive changes in the community.

To celebrate the completion of these projects, the College hosted the annual Poster Session and Celebration on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 in the Hoehl Gallery in the Health Science Research Facility at the College of Medicine. Faculty and agency advisors, medical students, faculty and staff turned out to view the 16 projects on display at the celebration.

Through a collaboration with the United Way of Chittenden County (UWCC), each spring, first-year UVM medical students meet with Burlington, Vt. area agencies to identify partnerships for public health projects to address a need in the community. This year, community partners included Burlington Children’s Space, the Committee on Temporary Shelter, Vermont CARES, the Vermont Department of Health, the Vermont Chapter of the American Lung Association, the Northern New England Chapter of the American Red Cross, Cathedral Square, the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, Give Way to Freedom, the James M. Jeffords Institute for Quality and Operational Effectiveness, the Schoolhouse Learning Center, the United Way of Chittenden County, Vermont CARES, the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, and the Winooski Coalition for a Safe and Peaceful Community.

With this year’s celebration marking the tenth anniversary of the public health projects, Laurie Dana, UWCC coordinator of volunteer mobilization/volunteer connection, told the crowd gathered in the Hoehl Gallery that some impressive numbers have come out of the past decade. More than 1,000 students have participated, and 150 projects have been completed, adding up to roughly 39,000 hours of work over the past ten years.

This year, students “took on some very, very tough topics,” said Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H, associate dean for public health, as they worked with community agencies to improve the lives of community members across Vermont. “These experiences will stay with you and help you become better doctors,” she said, commending the class for their dedication.

College of Medicine Dean Frederick C. Morin III, M.D., also presented remarks at the event.

For one project, students collaborated with the Vermont chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and the UVM College of Medicine AV and Technology Service Departments to create an online Continuing Medical Education (CME) module for primary care physicians focused on Alzheimer screening. The module covered the most up-to-date screening protocols and reinforced the benefits of early detection. The students presented at Fletcher Allen’s Family Medicine Grand Rounds and received positive reviews in a post-presentation survey. Now, the module is pending approval to be included on the UVM CME website.

Another student group worked with the Community Health Improvement team at Fletcher Allen to research access to dental care for pregnant women. They surveyed obstetric providers across Vermont to find out more about “patient demographics, knowledge, and methods used to address prenatal oral health.” Only 18 percent of respondents reported following current oral care guidelines, and 74 percent were not aware of a recent Medicaid change that lifts a $495 cap on reimbursement for perinatal dental care and extends it to 60 days after delivery. They also conducted a focus group with patients and found that a lack of dentists who accept Medicaid and long wait times for appointments were challenges to accessing dental care.  Recommendations include more continuing medical education for providers and addressing the lack of dentists who accept Medicaid.

The Public Health Projects are conducted during the fall of the second year of medical school. Often, several student groups are accepted to present their project findings at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting.