Emory Report

June 28, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 34

Emory, Washington High partner to create science opportunities

In the time-honored tradition of shop and other stalwarts of vocational education, Atlanta secondary school educators are using hands-on training to encourage careers in the health sciences, with the help of Emory's Hughes Science Initiatives program.

This past April some 500 faculty, staff and students at Atlanta's Booker T. Washington High School underwent screenings for blood pressure, blood sugar, height and weight conducted by students in Washington's Health and Human Services Academy and graduate students in the Woodruff School of Nursing.

Washington's Health Academy is modeled after a program pioneered in California and Pennsylvania public schools. Emory has partnered with the high school to organize several programs around the academy, said Hughes Director Pat Marsteller. "Academies are a proven way to increase student achievement, raise academic standards and improve classroom attendance," she said.

Hughes staff worked with Washington High faculty to conduct a needs assessment for the program last year and held a workshop in November for the school's science teachers. The University is also working to help install computers and Internet access for each of the high school's science classrooms. Most recently, Health and Human Services Academy faculty were on campus for a two-week, interactive workshop that ended June 18. While here, the teachers began to develop a curriculum that will allow them to integrate health academy objectives into math, science and language arts classes.

Marsteller plans to hire a medical student to help identify internships and "shadow" opportunities for both the Washington students and Emory's own undergraduates interested in pursuing careers in the health sciences. Currently there isn't one central place students can go to find out about such opportunities, she said. And in some cases, the Hughes program will be helping to create them.

"We are very excited about our partnership with Emory and the opportunities it will offer our students," said Velma Cooper, health instructor and coordinator of the academy. The health fair was one of the first major events to mark the Emory-Washington partnership since it was launched in September with $100,000 from the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and partial funding from a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant.

Emory students found their volunteer stint rewarding as well. The Washington High students were "extremely polite and very interested in health education," said Paul Robinson, a registered nurse and student in the graduate nursing program. "They asked questions and took the information we provided them with very seriously."

Although screening teenagers for high blood pressure and diabetes may seem unusual, Associate Professor of Nursing Madge Donnellan said it's a wise course to follow. "In general, people that age don't seek screening, but we're learning we can detect these diseases earlier if we screen earlier," she said. "And obesity is a serious public health problem that affects young people as well as adults, and it's connected to high blood pressure and diabetes."

The work of Washington's Health and Human Services Academy will also extend to the surrounding area with a planned Community Wellness Center involving families, youth organizations and community partners. Administrators hope this holistic approach will help improve health education and encourage healthy habits among their neighbors.

--Stacey Jones, with reporting by Stacey Hillock

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