By JEN RETTER ’16
Students in Arcadia University’s Physician Assistant program have the opportunity to go beyond the classroom and address particular public health issues through community service projects. On Aug. 12, they completed another successful service learning day, assisting several organizations in the greater Philadelphia area, including the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA), Comfort House, the Jewish Relief Agency, and Ronald McDonald House.
Ten students visited MANNA—an organization that provides meals and nutrition counseling to patients afflicted with life-threatening illnesses—with Michael Huber, assistant professor and clinical coordinator. They discussed nourishment, health, and hunger and prepared kitchen meals for HIV and home-bound clients, while adhering to a strict set of guidelines for cleanliness and safety.
“In order to be efficient, we had to work together as a team in an assembly line type fashion. It was a fun time where we learned the importance of teamwork while being able to help supply nutritious food for those in need. Overall, it was a great experience that allowed us to get outside of the classroom and begin to help others in our community,” said second-year student Amanda Zgrablich, who is pursuing dual degrees in Public Health and Medical Science (Physician Assistant).
Led by Dan Pavlik, assistant professor and academic coordinator in the Physician Assistant program, 15 students also visited Philadelphia Veterans Comfort House to discuss veterans’ health and homelessness. Comfort House provides a free-of-charge home to veterans who are either struggling to make the daily commute from their homes to Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center or are homeless. The students’ projects included administrative and clerical work, organization, food and event preparation, light cleaning, and marketing.
Another 12 students visited Jewish Relief Agency with Dr. Tom Lynch, basic sciences coordinator in the Physician Assistant program, to address poverty and homelessness. The JRA volunteers attend to the different needs of members of the Jewish community. By painting, organizing, and assisting in yard work, the participants were able to lessen the burdens of these low-income families.
“The best part was the conversation and connection we were able to make with our client as we were working,” said Lynn Beatty ’12, a first-year student in the Physician Assistant program. “She, like many of the other clients, lives alone and really looks forward to the visits from the Jewish Relief Agency volunteers. It is always important as future health care providers to exchange perspectives with people from a variety of backgrounds in order to be present with patients and provide the best care possible. Opportunities for service learning are essential for us to grow to become well-rounded providers.”
Two separate groups of students also served at the Erie Avenue and the Chestnut Street Ronald McDonald Houses. With baked goods and ingredients already prepared, the students visited patients and families housed in these facilities. Once on site, the Erie Avenue group discussed childhood cancer and palliative care with Clinical Coordinator Mandy Johnson, while the Chestnut Street group focused on the same topic with Clinical Coordinator Rachel Ditoro.
“I personally got a great deal from the experience, but what I found most profound was the fact that, just by doing a simple act like baking for the families at the house, we were able to take away some of the stress,” said first-year Physician Assistant student Nicole Corvino. “These families have so much on their plates with a sick child, and we often forget how much stress things like laundry, providing meals and maintaining a home can place on them. At The Ronald McDonald house we were able to contribute by making food for them so that they had one less thing to worry about and could focus on being there for their child who needs them.”
Other students in the PA program had a similarly fulfilling experience. “After sitting in class and learning about the how the body works, I appreciated the opportunity to get out of the classroom, reach out, and help people. After all, this was a major reason I chose this career,” said Chris Hart, a first-year student in the Physician Assistant program. “It was also valuable in gaining insight on how challenging it is for the elderly or mentally ill to receive help and support, and I gained a greater appreciation of what groups like the Jewish Relief Agency do to help.”