January 26, 2012

Shade Tree Clinic to expand health education program

Shade Tree Clinic to expand health education program

by Carole Bartoo
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students have received a $49,475 grant to launch a program that may define how to provide better health education for underserved populations with chronic diseases.
The grant from The Baptist Healing Trust will support the student-run Shade Tree Clinic in East Nashville by funding expansion and analysis of the ongoing Patient Health Education (PHE) program.

The Shade Tree Clinic, founded six years ago by medical students, is staffed by first- and second-year medical students who volunteer their time. It serves as a service-learning experience, bringing primary and specialty care to the uninsured of East Nashville while teaching medical students important clinical skills and exposing them to the health care system.

Medical students Allison Ferreira and Paula Marincola, co-executive directors of the Shade Tree Clinic, say the students are proud of the clinic’s PHE services.

“If you want to see the best patient interactions at Shade Tree, you should see our Patient Health Educators at work,” Ferreira said. “They have designed a great chronic disease curriculum for patients. This grant will allow us to make use of some tools to take that education even further.”

The PHE program seeks to equip chronic disease patients with the education, social resources, emotional support and personal attention necessary to optimally manage their illness. It initially served the needs of Shade Tree patients with diabetes, but now will expand to include patients with other chronic illnesses.

“We have identified patients with serious chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart failure and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, similar to emphysema), and the students have come up with learning goals for each group,” said Robert Miller, M.D., associate professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and co-medical director of the clinic.

“This grant will make a huge impact in efforts to pull information and statistics together and track results. This speaks to the students’ concern about chronic disease.”

As part of their application for the grant, students spelled out specific goals, including: improvement in blood pressure for 65 percent of hypertensive patients, enrollment of 60 percent of chronic lung disease patients in a smoking cessation program, and improvement in blood sugar control for 75 percent of patients with diabetes.

The grant will also fund enhanced social work support services for all patients enrolled in the PHE program.