February 14, 1997

VUSM student beams health news to area high schools

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Third-year medical student Ted Boyse is bringing health news to area high schools.

VUSM student beams health news to area high schools

Acne, stress relief and date rape have joined the list of topics covered during morning announcements at several Nashville-area high schools ‹ thanks to a Vanderbilt University School of Medicine student.

Third-year medical student Ted Boyse is taking his newly-learned medical knowledge, mixing it with music and humor, and hitting the high school airwaves. Boyse developed, writes and produces HealthBeat, a series of health-related public service announcements aimed at high school students.

"I get a lot of satisfaction from breaking down information into a usable form. I have to do that every day for myself as I sit in classes here in medical school," Boyse said. "I enjoy seeing the way it works and I come away understanding it. I can do the same thing with HealthBeat for teenagers."

Each HealthBeat is a one minute program dealing with topics like dandruff, insomnia, depression, sports injuries and even knuckle-cracking. It is presented in a conversational format, uses multiple voice dialogue and opens and closes with music.

Boyse has developed 30 topics, enough for weekly airing for an entire school year. It is supplied to schools on one audio tape with a guide describing the topics.

More than 5,000 students in public and private high schools in Nashville hear the weekly spots. Two high schools in New Hampshire are also participating and the program may soon expand into some Ohio schools.

At White's Creek High School, in Nashville, HealthBeat is played every Wednesday morning during the announcements. Principal Bruce Bowers is pleased with the broadcasts.

"This program addresses the issues in a very light way, but once you listen to the entire program, it gets very serious," Bowers said. "It's gets the student's attention and gets them to listen. Then it drives home a point.

"The beauty of HealthBeat is that it gives a way to solve the problem. It's a common solution that is sensible and within range," he said

Students also like the broadcast segments.

"It's kind of cool because sometimes it brings up stuff that you might think is embarrassing, but it is helpful to people who are scared to ask someone else about it," says 16-year-old sophomore Jarmille Toran.

The HealthBeat idea started with Boyse, who had been a college disc jockey during his undergraduate years. Dr. Deborah C. German, associate dean for Students, helped Boyse develop it further.

"At the end of his first year, Ted came to me with a desire to continue to work on the radio," said German. "He had done some broadcasting of health messages at his college radio station. We designed a special elective which consisted of his creating HealthBeat messages for our Vanderbilt University college radio station.

"Ted was very successful with that so I encouraged him to take it further. I thought the messages he had put together would be very useful to high school students, too. Ted then worked on the high school project over the summer without any credit," German said.

Then Boyse, with the help of German, presented the project to the principals of several Nashville area schools.

All of the topics are well researched at VUMC's Eskind Biomedical Library and must be approved by German and another faculty member.

It takes Boyse about two hours to produce each episode. Many times his classmates help with ideas and the actual recording.

"We wanted to come up with ideas that not only were crucial to teenagers' health, like seat belts and smoking and contraceptives, but also ideas that are relevant to the teenager's world ‹ such as acne, snoring, stress relief, caffeine Š those type topics," Boyse said.

In many cases, HealthBeat is funny, but it has its serious moments, too, like when the announcement dealt with date rape.

"That is just not a topic that you can make funny. For that episode, I didn't use music and I didn't use another voice. I used a single voice and tried to just get across the important facts," Boyse said.

Though he has a serious message to pass on, Boyse doesn't mind student's giggles.

"I want them to laugh. I want them to enjoy it and I want them to just gain one or two facts about their health."

The project is still in the pilot-stage. German and Boyse have developed a questionnaire to determine if knowledge and attitude change after listening to the tapes.

German believes the project will have far-reaching impact.

"I think its wonderful. It's great for Ted in his career development and it's great for Vanderbilt Medical School because it shows that Vanderbilt is committed to working with the community to educate its students and its people.

"But, most of all, it's great for all the youngsters out there who need to learn a lot more about taking care of themselves."

"I have a lot of fun doing it," said Boyse. "And as long as people enjoy hearing it and learning from it, it will keep going."