Blog Post

Community and Interprofessional Engagement, with Case Western’s Student Action Network

May 12, 2022
Intend Health Strategies Blog
Community and Interprofessional Engagement, with Case Western’s Student Action Network

The Primary Care Progress Student Action Network (PCP SAN) Chapter at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) formed in 2019. Founded by PA students, the chapter later expanded to welcome students from across CWRU’s health professions schools, offering valuable interprofessional experiences to its members. Each year, students create and manage community-based projects, and two current team leaders, Adrienne Simmons and Andrea Szabo, shared their experiences with PCP SAN and their chapter’s projects.

Always interested in primary care, Adrienne Simmons is a third-year medical student who was one of the first medical students to join the chapter, looking for community service work and interprofessional interaction with students from other schools.

Andrea Szabo, a fourth-year medical student, recently matched into the Med-Peds program at the University of Pennsylvania and will soon be starting her residency at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. This is her first year with the PCP SAN chapter. Like Adrienne, Andrea was looking for opportunities to engage with the community as a medical student, knowing that this would be important for her career in primary care. Andrea was also looking for interprofessional experience.

The chapter’s mission, according to Adrienne, is “to foster a bridge between the CWRU campus community and the surrounding community, and to improve awareness of primary care within the campus and among other health professions students. The mission also includes helping community members think about the importance of their health to increase the overall well-being of the community.”

The chapter takes on projects that serve this mission, and Adrienne and Andrea provided insight into impactful projects the team has engaged in during this academic year alone.

“Just Walk” Events

The team’s biggest project is “Just Walk,” a monthly event held the first Saturday of every month in partnership with a local community health center. The CWRU team heard about “Walk With a Doc” events through networking with another PCP student chapter and was inspired to launch their own event.

The community health center promotes the walks to its members, and participants have subsequently spread the word to friends and family. With access to both an indoor and outdoor track, events can be held regardless of Cleveland weather. At every event, future healthcare providers (PA students, nurse practitioner students, and medical students) walk with community members to answer any questions and casually converse. One student gives a five-minute presentation on a particular healthcare topic, such as exercise, mindfulness, or meditation.

Since Fall 2021, there have been seven walks with as many as 20 community members participating. These walks provide opportunities for community-clinician engagement while promoting overall health and exercise.

“Watching ‘Just Walk' grow from our first event to our last few events has been super rewarding. It’s also been a lesson in perseverance and adaptability – being on this team, working together… listening to each other, and building on ideas from everyone’s contributions.”
— Adrienne Simmons

Food Distribution

The chapter also participated in food distribution events in partnership with a community health worker organization and a local food bank. The team put together around 50 packages that were hand-delivered by community health workers to local families. Team members also volunteered at drive-through food distribution events that are run by the food bank, usually twice a month. Between 20 and 100 people come to the drive-through a couple of times each month to receive fresh fruits and vegetables, and the PCP team is there to provide extra hands to help meet the needs of the community.

Vaccine Hesitancy

In partnership with the same community health worker organization and the local health department, chapter volunteers staff events where they provide information and answer questions about COVID vaccines. These “vaccine pods” take place at locations throughout the community, including libraries, churches, and even McDonald’s, with a focus on areas with lower vaccination rates.

Andrea noted that they aren’t necessarily shifting mindsets; by the time people come to these events, they are almost ready to get the vaccine. Even so, volunteers are available to speak with community members, making sure they’re comfortable, answering questions or concerns, and encouraging visitors to recommend vaccination to their friends and family. The health department had handed out $100 gift cards to those who were getting the vaccine for the first time, and when Andrea asked several attendees what convinced them, they responded, “I was hemming and hawing, but then I heard about the gift card.” Whether the motivation was intrinsic or extrinsic, some events drew from 50 to 100 people, and had a positive impact on the health and well-being of community members.

“It’s been a really rewarding experience for students, not only to do things that are great for the community, but also to interact with people in other professions, such as community health workers. That extra interprofessional experience is very valuable.” — Andrea Szabo

Upcoming Health Fair

For their final project this academic year, the chapter will help a nearby church organize a health fair this summer, featuring information booths focused on mental health, reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS, as well as diabetes and blood pressure screenings. There will also be sessions on outdoor yoga, mindfulness, and self-care, as well as a voter registration drive. The team is also exploring additional vaccine hesitancy work and a possible vaccine clinic in partnership with several Cleveland organizations.

Through projects like these, the Case Western PCP SAN Chapter is having a positive impact on its surrounding community while providing valuable, interprofessional experience to future healthcare providers as they begin their careers.

Andrea Szabo describes her work with the chapter as “an incredibly valuable experience — to see how much a student group is able to make a difference, to start getting involved in the community, and to start making an impact. I have learned so much about the importance of networking and partnerships throughout this process.”

More about the PCP Student Action Network

Our national Student Action Network (SAN) comprises interprofessional, student-led teams from 18 institutions with more than 200 participants.

With support from coaches and faculty advisors, students design and implement community-based projects while developing their Relational Leadership skills through quarterly workshops, ongoing coaching sessions, and large-scale community events.

While the name of our organization changed to Intend Health Strategies in 2022, the name of our student program remains unchanged, reflecting its origins in and continuing focus on primary care. Learn more about the PCP Student Action Network.

A look at the impactful community projects of Case Western Reserve’s PCP Student Action Network chapter.

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