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Medical Students Win $20,000 Grant for Health Promotions Campaign

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Students at Wake Forest University School of Medicine have been awarded a "Caring for Community" grant by the Association of American Medical Colleges in conjunction with Pfizer Inc and the Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative.

The four-year, $20,000 grant is for a health promotions campaign preceding "Share the Health," an annual health fair also sponsored by Wake Forest medical students. The fair is designed to encourage the medically underserved to become active participants in their own health care and to empower them to do so by teaching them about community health resources and strategies for disease prevention.

"A disadvantaged population within our community suffers from insufficient health care," said. Isabel Newton, the M.D./Ph.D. student who led the effort to get the grant. "This problem is a result of financial and logistical barriers to medical services, a lack of awareness of available alternative services, and a lack of education about disease prevention and its importance."

She said that 19 percent of African Americans and 28 percent of Hispanics lack health care coverage, compared with only 10.7 of whites. As a result, 20 percent of minorities and 27.8 percent of the poor did not receive needed medical attention last year

"Obstacles to health care include financial hardship, lack of medical insurance, language barriers, and lack of transportation.," Newton said "Unfamiliarity with health issues and methods of disease prevention further exacerbates the problem."

The school was one of nine U.S. medical schools to win a Caring for Community grant, which provide funding for community health projects initiated, developed and run by medical students. The health promotion campaign will involve local minority groups and use various forms of advertising to promote health awareness, she said. "This campaign will build up the health fair and also help publicize it."

Newton said the students also got a $3,000 award from Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honorary society, for the campaign.

The 2002 health fair -- the third -- was on Feb. 9 at Marketplace Mall and included free blood pressure checks, blood glucose (sugar) testing, child safety seat inspections and child identification kits. In addition, each child got a free book and an opportunity to participate in games and face painting.

Health care professionals from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and from community and area discussed issues of child and adult health care and described where to go for help.

Newton grew up in Winston-Salem, graduated from Princeton in 1998, and is now working to get both her M.D. and a Ph.D. in neurobiology and anatomy. Another medical student, Savana LaMar, who also is from Winston-Salem, prepared the background research on which the grant is based, and Melissa Keene will be one of the coordinators of the 2003 fair. ###

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