Med School Service Projects Aim to Build a Healthier St. Louis

Twenty-six members of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine Class of 2017 were honored recently for their four year commitment to the Ignatian model of serving the needs of others in the community. 

The honorees are part of the Rodney M. Coe Distinction in Community Service Program, which is a longitudinal, faculty-mentored community service program.

Truth Talks

Mallory Hubbard-Whitley, left, and Jacquaé M. Walker started Truth Talks: Speaker Bureau Series. Photo by Maggie Rotermund

The Distinction requires students to complete a minimum of 180 hours of health-related service over four years and to partner with the community on a project in response to community need. 

Christine Jacobs, M.D., interim chair of the department of family and community medicine, noted that the service projects undertaken by this year's honorees reached young and old, men and women, the impoverished, the abused, and provided practical solutions to improve health care systems.

"You have a wide and amazing reach," she said. "You are providing tangible services for people in need. You have served our community well and I am so proud of you."

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Victoria Simmons, left, and Joanne D'Souza, right, discuss their project "Well Girl Leads to Well Woman."  Photo by Maggie Rotermund

Fred Rottnek, M.D., director of community medicine at SLU and Coe mentor, shared a letter to the honorees from David Pole, Ph.D, MPH,  an instructor in community medicine. Pole, a fellow Coe mentor, was out of town for the reception but wanted to share his thoughts with the students.

"You have all done great work and shown a commitment to being men and women for others. You are enlightened change agents. Continue on this journey - it has been an honor and a privilege to work with you." 

Jacquaé Walker and Mallory Hubbard-Whitley found inspiration for their project in the children growing up in communities similar to the ones they grew up in. Their project, "Truth Talks: Speaker Bureau Series," was aimed at providing St. Louis Public School students with identifiable mentors.

"So many kids don't see a positive image of someone who looks like them and came from where they came from being successful in a professional career like medicine or law or engineering," Walker said. "They have goals and aspirations to be doctors and architects but they need inspiration to stay on the path."

Walker grew up in Los Angeles and said she related to hearing that a career in medicine wasn't in the cards for her. She will graduate from SLU and head to University of Virginia for her residency. 

Hubbard-Whitley was raised in East St. Louis. She and her family will head to Jacksonville, Florida for her residency.

Hubbard-Whitley had an additional service project. She and her husband founded Urban Influentials, a non-profit aimed at finding mentors for high school aged men.

Alex Bodkin, Joanne D’Souza and Victoria Simmons looked to improve women's health by helping girls understand their bodies and feel empowered to speak up. 

"We took a program that focused mainly on female sexual health and expanded it into a more well-rounded program," said Simmons. "This included talking about bullying, overall health and being an advocate for yourself." 

Their program involved pre- and post-program quizzes on basic health knowledge. 

"We talk a lot about having respect for yourself and your health. We really are our own best advocates," said D'Souza. "Everyone needs to be able to speak up for themselves."

Both D'Souza and Simmons are heading to Michigan State University for residency - D'Souza for obstetrics and gynecology and Simmons for surgery. 

David Schneider, M.D., the outgoing chair of the department of family and community medicine, said participating in the Coe Distinction program and watching its projects continue through sustained community partnerships are some of his favorite memories of his time at SLU.

Coe mentors include Kelly Everard, Ph.D., and Nicole Wiethop. The full list of 2017 projects includes:

  • Alishka Abioye – Labor of Love: Vulnerable Women and Maternity Elective
  • Daniel Au – Quality Improvement and Patient Safety Curriculum Development
  • Natalie Baumann and Rupal Joshi – Introduction to Mental Health: A Curriculum for Teens
  • Alex Bodkin, Joanne D’Souza and Victoria Simmons – Well Girl Leads to Well Woman
  • Katherine Burgener and Justine McGauley – Domestic Violence Education for Pre-Health Students
  • Alexander Chen – Scholastic Mind: Educating the Educators
  • Kharole Compère – Educating Patients About Emergency Department and Urgent Care Use
  • Margaux DeChambre – Culturally Sensitive Mental Health Screening Tools for the Latino Population
  • Chelsea Del Rosso and Devon Goossen – Intergenerational Programs: Improving Mental Health and Encouraging Uplifting Relationships
  • Robert Fisher – Expanding Youth Anti-Tobacco Education to Local After-School Programs
  • Matthew Garrity – Medical Student Well-Being: Improving the 4th Year
  • Robert J. Hieger – Academic Peer Support
  • Mallory Hubbard-Whitley – Urban Influentials
  • Rikki Koehler – Stick the Landing! ACL Injury Awareness in Middle School Female Soccer Players
  • Meaghan Neary – NICU Notebook: A Tool for Parent Support in the ICU
  • Linda Peng – Providing Eyeglasses to the MHI Patient Population
  • Morgan Schiller – Development of a Free Vaccine Program at Casa de Salud
  • Parth Shah – Medical Students Teaching at Juvenile Detention
  • Michael Tarkey – Swimming and Water Safety with St. Louis Refugees
  • Christin Tu – In-Hospital Violence Prevention
  • Jacquaé M. Walker and Mallory Hubbard-Whitley – Truth Talks: Speaker Bureau Series

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, cancer, heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disorders.