Students rewrite literature

Published 10:46 pm Friday, March 30, 2012

Suffolk residents are helping third-year medical students produce easier-to-read literature on health problems common to rural and underserved areas in a program under way at Western Tidewater Free Clinic.

Eastern Virginia Medical School students have been interviewing the Meade Parkway clinic’s patients during their family medicine clerkship orientation, an internal medical school paper explains.

Students use information garnered from interviews to produce health education literature that is easier to understand than previously available literature. Once vetted by school officials, the new literature is complied into Google documents, which are distributed to patients.

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The medical school’s director of community outreach, Dr. Terri Babineau, said the Google documents idea was conceived while reviewing the revised literature with clerkship director Dr. Bruce Britton.

“I was looking at (the revised literature) … and it seemed such a waste to put them in a drawer somewhere,” she said.

Babineau said students began visiting the Suffolk clinic last July thanks to an Obici Healthcare Foundation grant.

“I and the attending physician devised the idea to make it so that our residents and medical students could have access to an underprivileged population mostly from a rural area,” she said.

About 110 students have been involved in the project, which also operates at the South Norfolk Health Center, Babineau said.

Students are divided into groups of four during the six-week orientation, and the attending clinic physician helps select relevant literature topics, according to the internal paper.

Group leaders first present existing health literature to patients, and feedback helps form the initial revised product.

Each student in turn presents subsequent revisions to the patient, culminating in the more-accessible finished product.

“It’s not to insult anyone,” Babineau said. “It’s just because medical language can be so confusing.”

Babineau said the project had generated more than 27 sets of revised literature, and she described the interaction between the students and patients as “really wonderful.”

“(For patients) to have that one-on-one time with the students is pretty amazing,” she said.

The main health conditions covered in the literature include diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. “All those are huge risk factors for early heart attack and stroke,” she said.

Other common health issues and procedures are also covered, including ringworms, Pap smears, mammograms and prostate exams, she said.

In 2010, Western Tidewater Free Clinic devoted 98 percent of its services to treating and managing chronic illnesses, predominantly high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, according to its website.