The Feinberg School extends its mission of hope and help far beyond its academic halls. Students and faculty are involved in many programs that reach out into various communities in the city, suburbs, and beyond.
A Science Club for Kids
Under the leadership of Michael T. Kennedy, PhD, director of education and research programs for the Center for Genetic Medicine, and Carolyn Jahn, PhD, associate professor of cell and molecular biology, Feinberg faculty and students have developed a science club for kids in the Boys & Girls Club in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. Forty kids, ages 8 to 14, work for 10 weeks on science experiments and develop an understanding and enjoyment of science. The program currently is on its third 10-week session and student enthusiasm is intense.
“Our goal is to engage youth in the excitement and challenge of science via hands-on activities,” explains Dr. Kennedy. “Graduate and medical students organize and lead the activities. Mentorship is a core philosophy of our program. By working in small groups, no more than four students per mentor, we really get to know the kids. They experience our passion for science, which is contagious. The program ends each quarter with a club-wide science fair, in which Science Club students present their activities to the broader membership. You can’t believe the pride in their faces. They are so excited and proud of what they’ve accomplished.”
Another community program involves the Heartland Alliance, which has formed a partnership with the Department of Family Medicine. “The Alliance has roots in Chicago dating back to the late 1800s,” says Russell G. Robertson, MD, chair of the department. “It has a long and proud history of commitment to the underserved. We are honored to be a part of that tradition.”
The Alliance provides health care as well as other services to the underserved in Chicago and in developing countries. In Chicago, Feinberg faculty and students volunteer at Alliance health centers to provide primary care and mental health services for vulnerable groups such as refugees, new immigrants, homeless people, and those with HIV and AIDS. The department has also worked with the Alliance to establish school health centers at two Chicago high schools: Senn High School in Edgewater and Roosevelt High School in Albany Park.
In fact, the department is so dedicated to outreach that it is changing its name to the Department of Family and Community Medicine. “We are proud of the many community services we currently provide,” explains Dr. Robertson. “But we want to dramatically expand our efforts so that we can serve more people in new and different ways.”
The Oncofertility Saturday Academy
Yet another successful outreach program is the Oncofertility Saturday Academy.
Three years ago, Teresa K. Woodruff, PhD, director of Northwestern’s Institute for Women’s Health Research, attended an event and happened to sit at a table with several girls from a high school on Chicago’s South Side. Dr. Woodruff was so impressed by the girls, and by their interest in science, that she contacted the school to see if there was any way she could become involved in the girls’ educations and share with them her own research into oncofertility. Soon, the Oncofertility Saturday Academy was born. The program is the first of its kind in the country and is now being replicated at several other medical schools.
Here’s how it works. The school selects 15 juniors and 15 seniors, based on interviews, applications, and personal essays. The juniors focus on the basic science of oncofertility; the seniors focus on the clinical applied science of oncofertility. One hundred percent of the students selected participated, and all have completed the course and gone on to college.
The program isn’t easy. It lasts for eight Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. More than 75 faculty, staff, and students donate time to help with the curriculum, which usually involves lectures in the morning, lab work in the afternoon, and demanding homework.
Nicole Miles, now a freshman pre-med at Smith College, was in the first class. “I loved everything about the program,” she says. “It never seemed like work to me because it was so interesting. Several of us were so enthusiastic that we requested special permission to attend some medical school classes and sit in on human dissections. Now that was fabulous.”