Symposium Highlights PLFSOM’s Philosophy of Service

Symposium Highlights PLFSOM’s Philosophy of Service

On Feb. 6, students and faculty from the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine (PLFSOM) gathered for the eighth annual Service Learning Symposium.

The symposium showcased the PLFSOM’s philosophy of service education, a form of teaching that encourages meaningful community service. The symposium featured 22 presentations, mostly by students or graduates of the PLFSOM’s Society, Community, and the Individual Course. The course is a core requirement of the medical curriculum that introduces public health issues through a social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental lens, said E. Lee Rosenthal, Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H., a course faculty member and key organizer of the event.

“In the Society, Community, and the Individual course, we have a number of community-focused components, and one of them is optional service-based learning,” Rosenthal said. “Service learning is a tradition of not only doing volunteer work, but of reflecting on your volunteer work and thinking deeply about your own professional identity, about your personal identity, and about the population and community that you serve.”

Participating in the symposium for the first time this year were two student groups from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and three students from the El Paso Independent School District’s Maxine Silva Health Magnet School.

The symposium began with a dual keynote speech by Michael Parsa, M.D., associate professor and clerkship director in TTUHSC El Paso’s Department of Emergency Medicine, and fourth-year medical student Jennifer Nielsen. The two spoke about incentives for clinical volunteerism, drawing from Nielsen’s public health master’s thesis on barriers to physician volunteerism and how to overcome those barriers.

Nielsen has participated in the symposium for the past three years and said it’s a good opportunity to encourage service among physicians and students.

“It’s great to be with like-minded people so that you can share ideas about how to overcome the barriers to volunteering and making a difference in your community,” Nielsen said. “You become more aware of how you can be involved and how you can give back.”

At the end of the symposium, PLFSOM students who had completed at least 100 hours of community service were honored and inducted into the school’s 100-Hour Club, an acknowledgment of their service to the community. Some were also honored for completing 250 and 500 hours. Second-year PLFSOM student Eric Potter, who helped to conceptualize the 100-Hour Club, shared that first-, second-, and  third-year students together had contributed more than 12,000 service hours.

The following awards were given at the end of the symposium for oral and poster presentations: 

Poster Winner – Sustained

“The Gift of Sight: Year Three”

Bryson Tudor, Sean Trihn, Allison Moots, Jacob Winters, Marah Hamdan, Chelsey Krambeer, Christian Draper

Poster Winner – Innovative

“Providing Free Healthcare to the Impoverished Himalayan Natives of Himachel Pradesh, India”

Joshua K. Dodderer

Oral Presentation Winner – Sustained

“Clinical Breast Exams and Mammogram Screenings: A Preventive Care Experience at the Medical Student Run Clinic”

Maria Aleman, Rebekah Bongato, Carlos Lodeiro, Franz Puyol, Loc-Uyen Vo

Oral Presentation Winner – Innovative

“Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service”

Elizabeth McCain, Skye Schultz, Sarah Sweitzer, Subodh Potla, Anthony Do, E. Lee Rosenthal, Ph.D., M.P.H.

High School Poster Winner – Silva Magnet

“A Visit with the Birds: Improving Retirement Community Lifestyle and Providing Pre-Medical Student Experiences”

Juan Pablo Speer

Best in Symposium – People’s Choice Award

“Tafadhali Sema Polepole: Public Health in Rural Kenya”

Calvin McNelly