Med students learn care-giving at United Methodist clinic
March 8, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Allysa Adams
Medical student Peter Easter examines Aaron Watkins at the UMOM New Day Center in Phoenix.
By Allysa Adams*
PHOENIX (UMNS) — Some things you just can’t learn from a book. That’s
something second-year medical student Peter Easter realizes every time he comes
to work at the UMOM New Day Center medical clinic.
Tonight, Easter struggles to keep 15-month-old
Aaron Watkins happy while trying to get a peak into the child’s ears. Aaron is having none of it, wailing
and struggling in his mom’s arms.
“Peds is probably some of the most challenging patients you get in medicine,” Easter
says. “They’re always moving around, and they don’t sit still.
It’s a real test of your clinical skills.”
Easter and nine other medical students from Midwestern
University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine regularly test those skills
at the free clinic
here. It’s a rare opportunity for the medical students to put down the
books and start putting what they are learning into practice.
“The first two years of medical school are strictly book work,” Easter
says. “It’s really nice to get out and see what all the work you
are doing (is) for.”
A nonprofit organization, the United Methodist
Outreach Ministries New Day Center is part of the denomination’s Desert
Southwest Annual (regional) Conference. It has 70 staff members and hundreds
and is funded
largely through charitable contributions and government money.
Last year, the center provided shelter to 350 families and served more than
8,000 people with its food pantry. The center also provides job training, substance
abuse treatment and day care. And once a month, people get free medical care
at the student-run clinic.
‘Crash course in people’
As the patients file in with runny noses, coughs
and various flu symptoms, it’s clear this is a situation where the
patient and doctors help each other.
“They realize we’re students so they put up with us,” Easter
”It shows me what community health nursing is all about,” says
Tricia Henry, a nursing student at Arizona State University.
This night, she is helping Karen Eynon, the medical
coordinator at the center, with health assessments for newly arriving families.
exam room, Eynon
has 4-month-old Olivia Anderson hold a rattle, and she watches to see if the
child’s eyes follow her as she moves. Nearby, Olivia’s mom, a recovering
heroin addict, answers Tricia’s questions about her health history.
|A UMNS photo by Allysa Adams
At the clinic, medical students learn to work with uncooperative patients and concerned parents.
“The first time I came here I was really nervous,” Henry admits. “I
had never done anything like this in my experience, and it was hard to ask
It’s not a population most medical students have ever encountered, and
Eynon hopes the students get an appreciation for the whole person and not just
the patient’s deficits.
“Everybody has their barriers and obstacles to being healthy,” Eynon
says, “and this population has a lot of barriers. So it’s a crash
course in people and how they are affected by their overall lifestyle.”
After Easter gives Dr. Markham McHenry the rundown on Aaron, both of them
go back into the exam room to give the little boy the once-over again. McHenry,
a licensed family physician, volunteers his time to oversee the students at
Easter watches in appreciation as McHenry checks
Aaron’s ears, heart
and lungs while the now-calm little boy smiles and laughs at the more experienced
doctor. McHenry employs some veteran’s tricks: a few trills with his
voice and a cell phone to play with.
“It’s an art,” Easter says in awe. “It’s
*Adams is a freelance writer and producer in Phoenix.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or firstname.lastname@example.org.