University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Medical Student Education

Caring for Community at Heart of 2012-13 Public Health Projects

Colleen Kerrigan, James McAvoy and Cynthia Forehand, Ph.D.
Medical students Colleen Kerrigan (left) and James McAvoy (center) discuss their public health project with Professor of Neurological Sciences and Associate Dean of the Graduate College Cynthia Forehand, Ph.D. (Photo by Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

Though only in their second-year of medical school, students at the University of Vermont College of Medicine are already making an impact on the health of Vermonters through their public health projects. To celebrate the Class of 2015’s accomplishments in this realm, faculty and agency advisors, medical students, faculty and staff participated in the annual Poster Session and Celebration on Wednesday, January 23, 2013, at 4 p.m. in the Hoehl Gallery in the Health Science Research Facility at the UVM College of Medicine.

A total of 16 group projects were on display at the event. “This year’s projects feature several unique models for our community and Vermont to improve health in different populations,” says Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for public health and course director for the Public Health Projects.

One of this year’s poster presentations highlighted a project involving the Vermont State Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living and titled “Money Follows the Person: Transitioning Nursing Home Residents into the Community.” Based on research showing an association between nursing home admission and decline in several measures of health and well-being, the project focused on the feasibility of developing a housing model that supports the transition of nursing home residents back into the community via a move into an Adult Family Home. Students administered a survey to nursing homes throughout the state in order to evaluate the population’s required level of care and conducted a focus group of current home and service providers from Addison County to determine their experiences with transitioning residents from nursing homes into the community. The final element of the project was the construction of an Adult Family Home model using components of pre-existing models (in other states) to address Vermont’s specific needs. Money Follows the Person – a statewide, federally-funded and Medicaid-linked program that supports the transition of individuals from nursing facilities into their communities with the supports they need – was identified as the financial support mechanism.

Through a collaboration with the United Way of Chittenden County, 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. The projects are conducted during the fall of the second year of medical school and often, the information gathered through these projects leads to sustainable programs and even legislative action. Several student groups have been accepted to present their project findings at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting.