Well-known Pediatric Outreach Program Receives Coveted Grant

Two pediatricians run the program, which is being copied nationwide

June 19, 2000

Pediatric Links with the Community - a program created by two pediatricians at the University of Rochester's Children's Hospital at Strong - has received a five-year, $2.5 million grant from The Dyson Foundation, one of only six such grants nationwide.

The first of its kind in the country when it started in 1996, Pediatric Links with the Community encourages pediatric residents and medical students to spend time away from the hospital and classroom, getting to know the children and families they serve, and the resources available from local groups.

The program's mission is to educate future pediatricians about community-based health care, especially for children left without access to health services because of social or economic conditions, or special health needs. Co-directors Jeffrey Kaczorowski, M.D., and Laura Jean Shipley, M.D., work at Children's Hospital at Strong and the Panorama Pediatric Group. The program is run from an office at the Monroe County Health Department.

Last month, Pediatric Links with the Community was awarded the Ambulatory Pediatric Association's Outstanding Teaching Award for 2000, the highest teaching award given to members of the national organization of academic pediatricians.

The award from the Ambulatory Pediatric Association honors the success the program has had in forging meaningful partnerships between the University's residency program and nearly 30 community organizations, and the way it inspires participants to improve the health of children in their communities.

Kaczorowski and Shipley give plenty of credit to past and current residents and community organizations; they say these individuals and groups laid the groundwork.

Pediatric Links with the Community has fostered relationships with a variety of community groups, including the Enrico Fermi (School No. 17) Health Center, Family Court, Jefferson Middle School Wellness Center, Webster Avenue Family Resource Center, and Threshold Center for Alternative Youth Services. The program also serves rural children and their families through the Rural Opportunities Program.

"Each resident taking part in this program learns about community resources that are available to improve the health and quality of life of under-served children and their families," Shipley says. "These future pediatricians become comfortable working with these children and their families, and will be more likely to view themselves as advocates for the health of children in their communities."

More than 100 residents have participated in the program, typically working with at least 15 community organizations during their two-week rotation. More than one-third are involved in additional projects on a volunteer basis later in their residency.

For instance, some provide medical care for homeless and uninsured children at the Corpus Christi Medical Outreach Center; others offer health education at the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester; and some lead discussions on children's health issues for parents at the Third Church Head Start Program.

"One in four children under the age of five lives in poverty in the U.S.; in Rochester, this number is even higher," says Elizabeth McAnarney, M.D., pediatrician-in-chief at Children's Hospital at Strong. "Our community has come to the conclusion that training health care providers to care and advocate for under-served and high-risk youth and families is a critical first step in ameliorating health effects of poverty on children."

Pediatric Links with the Community doesn't generate any income, instead relying on grants secured by the program's directors. Local foundations including the Halcyon Hill Foundation and the Andrew J. Kirch Charitable Trust support the program.

The Dyson Foundation believes strongly in these types of programs, going so far as to create what it calls "The Dyson Initiative - Pediatric Training in the Community." This week, the organization announced six major grants, including the one received by Pediatric Links with the Community.

"We came to the conclusion that what is needed in our profession is a shift of emphasis," Ann Dyson, M.D., wrote in the organization's 1998 annual report. "We pediatricians are in a primary care specialty that must be community-oriented and community-based; our patients need us to help make the entire community more child-friendly and our society more child-oriented."

Pediatric Links with the Community has contributed to the development of similar programs at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Colorado (Denver Children's Hospital). Kaczorowski and Shipley have spoken about the local program at national conferences seven times during the last three years.

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