By Chester Kao, MS3 and Sooyoung Lim, MS3
Over the 2015-2016 academic year, the Pritzker Chapter of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) led by MS3 Sooyoung Lim and MS3 Chester Kao worked with Sicha Chantaprasopsuk, program coordinator at Project: VISION, a Chinatown youth leadership organization, to develop the Health Awareness Prevention Promotion by Youth (HAPPY) program. HAPPY is a leadership program for high school students interested in the health field. The participants learned about various health topics in the fall, and then they researched and prepared poster presentations under the guidance of Pritzker medical students (Sooyoung and Chester, and then-MS1s Erin Chang, Claudia Ma, and Lisa Ni) that culminated in a health fair on June 18, 2016 at the Leonard Louie Fieldhouse. Participants were divided into pairs and presented on Cancer, Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Hepatitis B, Nutrition, Smoking, and Vaccines.
Medical student volunteers and the program coordinator (L-R Michael Clark,
Lisa Ni, Victoria Lee, Sicha Chantaprasopsuk, Sooyoung Lim, and Chester Kao)
As an adjunct to the high school students’ presentations, Pritzker students Sooyoung, MSTP Michael Clark, MSTP Victoria Lee, Claudia, Lisa and Chester provided four basic screening and risk assessment stations related to the students’ topics: BMI, blood pressure, cardiovascular disease risk calculators, and type II diabetes risk assessment. The medical students, under the guidance of Karen Chiu, MD, and various physicians from NorthShore University HealthSystem, educated and informed community members on the increased risk of type II diabetes in Asians with “normal” BMI, what high blood pressure means to them, and preventative measures to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
Medical students and high school students after the health fair
To our surprise, the community members who visited the screening stations were overflowing with questions, and we were even able to teach and communicate with a number of them in Mandarin. Being able to communicate with them in their native language immediately created a sense of familiarity that could not be replicated with a translator. The community members were also all so excited and curious to learn about their own health. A pair of elderly women were so invested in learning about blood pressure that they didn’t leave my station for over twenty minutes. Another memorable group of elderly Chinese women were so excited to get their blood pressures measured that, once their friend was done, the next person in line exclaimed, “My turn”, held out their arm for the blood pressure cuff, and sat with an endearing giddiness. Moments like these made working with the Chinatown community so wonderful and stressed the importance of community health education outside of the hospital because people are excited to learn about their health but may not ordinarily have these opportunities.
Sooyoung and Chester, along with the then-MS1 mentors, were so proud of the high school students for their hard work this year, and hope they take the skills and lessons from this experience to jump-start their future aspirations in the health field. They give special thanks to Sicha and Dr. Chiu for making this program possible.