May 5, 2011

New medical school elective fills need at Shade Tree Clinic

Featured Image

Second-year Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students Ravi Patel and Ben Beschner, co-directors of the Shade Tree Clinic for the 2010-2011 school year, work with patient Tiffany Renee Davis at the clinic as Shane Magee, VMS-IV, looks on. (Photo by Susan Urmy)

New medical school elective fills need at Shade Tree Clinic

Shane Michael Magee may look like any of the other medical students working at the Shade Tree Clinic on a Tuesday night, but he’s not.

He is a fourth-year student—most of the others are first- and second-years– and Magee is getting a course credit for being here.

“Early in medical school, volunteering was a great way to learn, but later it became less what I could get out of it and more what I could provide,” Magee said.

Magee is one of 20 fourth-year students at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine who selected a new one-credit elective called The Shade Tree Service Learning and Education elective.

The Shade Tree Clinic is a volunteer clinic run by medical students and Vanderbilt physicians that provides free, quality care to the underinsured and underserved community of East Nashville.
Classmate Meredith Albin helped design, construct and coordinate this course to meet a couple of critical needs laid out last year by the Shade Tree Advisory Board: 1) address a lack of continuity of care, especially for complicated patients 2) formalize the educational experience of students in the clinic.

“This was the first time that fourth-year students were able to participate in a longitudinal elective. It worked out great. Many more students chose the course than we expected,” Albin said.

Albin worked with Senior Associate Dean for Health Sciences Education, Bonnie Miller, M.D., to design the course, and then signed up to take it herself. Students would staff the clinic for 20 shifts a year, attend monthly seminars, and work in groups on quality improvement projects.

As the end of the year approaches, they are compiling written reflections of what they learned.

All involved say the course has been a success. Shade Tree got what it needed because students were encouraged to schedule a shift or two each month throughout the year so that long-term patients became very familiar and could be provided with improved care. Miller also taught teaching skills to the elective students so that first- and second-year students gained better learning experiences.

“I have always enjoyed service-based learning, so being able to formalize this through the development of the elective has been very fun and exciting for me, and I hope has improved the care we deliver at Shade Tree,” Albin said.

“Meredith did an amazing job in creating and implementing this elective,” Miller said. “As a result of this success, we plan to offer longitudinal electives in teaching and quality improvement, in addition to the Shade Tree elective next year.”

Other students have been involved in assessing the new elective, including three medical students on break from medical curriculum to complete their MBAs.