Written by: Elaine Evans, Consumer Health Information Specialist, East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine Library, Johnson City, TN firstname.lastname@example.org
Up until 2008 the Quillen College of Medicine and the College of Medicine Library were viewed as off-limits to community residents. Around that time one of the NN/LM SE/A instructors came to our library to teach a class. During the course of the class she mentioned funding opportunities through NN/LM. As a staff person, I timidly asked if only librarians could apply. Her answer not only changed my life but also made consumer healthcare information available to the underserved populations of the Johnson City, TN area.
We applied for the Color My World Healthy sub-contract award through NN/LM which provided the vehicle we needed to reach the grass roots and minority populations of our community. Now we needed a driver – a chauffeur if you will. Librarians and staff, who were not afraid of driving in the fast lane, brought easy to understand, yet credible healthcare information to the underserved. Many options had been tried in an effort to reach the community; such as, pamphlets, brochures, and fliers. We could never be sure that these were read or understood. The award provided computers, books, DVD’s, a free standing sphygmomanometer, and healthcare classes to the busiest Park & Recreation Center in Johnson City. So began the “Color My World Healthy” satellite library at Carver Park & Recreation Center. All these things are wonderful within themselves, but somehow we still needed one-on-one and small group help.
Since our library is part of Quillen College of Medicine, we thought how wonderful it would be if we opened this teaching opportunity up to the medical students. This is when the “Color My World Healthy” library blossomed. What was once just computers and information, has turned into an educational “community service”. Medical students partner with our library and teach credible healthcare information classes at City Park and Recreation Centers, senior center, and local churches. This had never been done before in our area. Now the “untouchable” became touchable, and what seemed “impossible” became doable. Yes, we reached a new user population that the library had never reached before. (See photo below.)
The results: for the past three (3) years the medical students have used this as part of their “community service” which hones their clinical and professional skills. It has sharpened the teaching abilities of librarians and staff. We have touched every walk of life in that our classes include seniors, teens, kids, men, women, and multiple ethnic groups. Health topics include major health diseases and conditions, and those specific to minority races, population or genealogy. The community embraced us; the students are eager to teach classes as a community service, and pass the torch on to each new class entering medical school.
- “Where have you been all this time?”
- “Color My World Healthy” is a hidden jewel.”
- “Thank you for helping me understand how to take care of myself.”
This excerpt from a letter written by a volunteer at the Carver Park and Recreation Center says it all:
“Due to the volunteer efforts of the ETSU students in the healthcare fields we now have a core group of about ten teens who have persisted over the past two years in their interests to pursue various healthcare professions. One young lady is interested in pediatrics; a fifteen year old boy is interested in corrective plastic surgery, others in heart surgery and nutrition, and so on. We hope that these teens will be a part of our first crop of home grown medical professionals, and most of them have expressed a desire to practice their particular specialties right here. These under-served youths did not consider/imagine such possibilities until your students worked with them and helped them understand that college and a medical career was possible for them too if they want it and work for it.”