Pediatric Outreach Program Garners National Recognition

Medical schools nationwide are starting their own version of local program

February 01, 2000

Pediatric Links with the Community - a program created by Children's Hospital at Strong and the University of Rochester Medical Center - is the winner of the Ambulatory Pediatric Association's Outstanding Teaching Award for 2000. It is the highest teaching award given to members of the national organization of academic pediatricians.

PLC, the first of its kind in the country when it started in 1996, 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. PLC is run from an office at the Monroe County Health Department on St. Paul Street in Rochester.

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.

PLC 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 by reaching out 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," Kaczorowski 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.

PLC 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 PLC program.

Its most recent grant, for $55,000, came from The Dyson Foundation. The organization believes strongly in these types of programs, going so far as to create what it calls "The Dyson Initiative - Pediatric Training in the Community." It plans on funding 10 programs similar to PLC during the next two years.

"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."

Kenneth Roberts, M.D., of the Ambulatory Pediatric Association, enthusiastically embraced PLC in a congratulatory letter he sent to Kaczorowski and Shipley. The award will be presented at a ceremony in Boston this May.

"The members of the committee who reviewed the proposals were very impressed by your program and by the enthusiasm it has generated," Roberts wrote. "You have gone about creating such a program in an instructive way When the voting was completed, your program was not only the winner, but also the clear winner!"

Kaczorowski says PLC has contributed to the development of similar programs at Northwestern University and the University of Colorado (Denver Children's Hospital). He spoken about PLC at national conferences six times in the last three years.

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