Future doctors, nurses to model diet, exercise for middle-school children

SAN ANTONIO (June 18, 2008)—Young teens from a San Antonio barrio will learn about fitness, eating right, and other healthy behaviors from future doctors and nurses this summer, thanks to a new class at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The “Healthy Choices for Kids” class, developed by the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics and the School of Nursing, pairs medical and nursing students with the Good Samaritan Center on San Antonio’s west side to develop a curriculum to both teach and model healthy living practices to middle-school students at a summer day camp.

Ashley Garcia, a second-year medical student at the Health Science Center, is excited to promote good health among community children.

“Kids are very perceptive. They’ll watch what we do. I’ll talk about how I eat, how I fit activity into my day and how I make healthy choices daily,” said Garcia, who is from Victoria, Texas. “The more they can identify with me, the more they’ll take to heart what we have to say.”

Ruth E. Berggren, M.D., and Adelita Cantu, Ph.D, R.N., of the Health Science Center, created the class to offer students a hands-on learning experience that also allows them to intervene in the local community on behalf of children’s health. Dr. Berggren is an associate professor and director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics. Dr. Cantu is a clinical instructor in the Department of Family Nursing Care.

Dr. Berggren, along with colleague, Amanda Evrard, and Dr. Cantu, who is on the Good Samaritan Center’s Board of Directors, conducted informal interviews with parents who were signing up their children for the summer-long day camp at the center. They found that many parents wanted their children to learn about diet and nutrition – the obesity rates and diabetes risk among residents in the predominantly Latino South Texas are higher than the rest of Texas – and other issues.

Students attend lectures about the key health topics identified by parents and spend two months visiting the Good Samaritan Center to develop a camp curriculum.

“A pre-prepared external curriculum is going to be less effective than one developed within the community,” Dr. Berggren said. “Change that is believable and sustainable comes from within the group. Otherwise, it’s some kind of external gimmick.”

Students hope they can make a big impact on the health of children and their families.

“I want to be able to get my [future] patients into programs that can effect real change not only in them, but also in their family and friends,” Garcia said.

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $576 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 23,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit www.uthscsa.edu.



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