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PA Students Promote Health in Community

by Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Stay awake. Pay attention. You’ll learn something.

That was the advice Christopher Colman gave the students, because — as he put it — he knew from experience.

Colman, along with other members of CHS’ Physician Assistant Class of 2023, took time over the past few weeks to reach out to students at Frederick Douglass High School, to spread healthy knowledge.

“I used to eat any kind of way,” Colman told them during the presentation, which was over Zoom. “It caught up to me. What you want out of your body, you’ve got to put in your body.”

As part of PAS 678 (Health Promotion and Disease Prevention) over the summer, Cheryl Vanderford, MPAS, PA-C, assigned Class of 2023 students into teams and they were given the following assignment:

PAS 678 will culminate with a team-based project where we MOVE in line with our University of Kentucky Physician Assistant mission to become transformative leaders and promote health and well-being in our community! 

Students will be divided into 13 teams and will choose a topic of their choice related to health promotion and disease prevention. Then, teams will design a project to promote that topic. Podcasts, movie trailers, commercials…let your creative juices flow!

The students then voted on the best projects, which were then presented via Zoom to the students at Frederick Douglass.

“The idea came from a session I attended with the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching about assessments,” said Vanderford, assistant professor in Physician Assistant Studies. “Everything doesn’t have to be in the typical quiz/exam form. Being creative with assessments and including students in the process — I believe students learn more when they are having fun and I feel like this first pilot was a success in illustrating that.”

Vanderford said she hoped students would learn to work on a team, delegate tasks, get creative and educate their community on a healthy topic.

“This gives them an opportunity to be a transformative leader in our community, which meets our mission,” she said.

The high-schoolers were treated to topics like: environmental health, exercise and nutrition, vaping, Tik Tok health trends, safe sex practices, vaccinations, social media habits and early detection through screening.

“This kind of outreach is necessary because we, as soon-to-be Physician Assistant professionals, must reach out and connect with the generations following our own so they know that we are here to support and help them navigate the long and complicated road that determines their overall health and well-being,” said student Wes Clevinger. “They have to know and genuinely feel that we are here to help keep them well and that foundational groundwork needs to be laid now knowing that they are entering into a very vulnerable and scary time in their lives in which they will soon be responsible for maintaining their own health and wellness.”

It’s something they will need to do when they graduate, too, he said.

“Anytime we have the chance to build rapport and trust with people that we didn’t previously have that with, educate others about the multi-factorial determinants to wellness, and articulate ways to improve a person’s overall health, then the net gain from this experience will be invaluable moving into our careers as PAs,” Clevinger said. “These positive outcomes, they don’t account for the possibility of improving the quality of life and longevity for our society’s next generation of community leaders, which is ultimately what we as PAs hope to accomplish.”