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Remillard Family Community Service Fund awards nine grants for UMass Chan collaborations

Funded projects have potential to improve the health of Central Massachusetts residents

The Remillard Family Community Service Fund has awarded nine grants for UMass Chan Medical School collaborations that have the potential to improve the health of Central Massachusetts residents, particularly those who are economically or educationally disadvantaged or underrepresented.

Established in 2015 with a $3 million donation by the Remillard Family Foundation, the Remillard Family Community Service Fund is dedicated to providing ongoing support for community outreach programs led by UMass Chan faculty, students, staff and community partners.

Worcester Technical High School 2019 graduates Michelle Haigbea (left)
and Marleen Nunez took part in UMass Chan internships.

This year’s grants of up to $20,000 support these new and ongoing projects:

Barbershop Health Network proposed by medical student Michelle Chang and Michael Hirsh, MD, professor of surgery: This project will host community conversations about COVID-19 vaccines in Worcester at barbershops, beauty salons, community centers and COVID-19 vaccination clinics led by student volunteers. Based on the community response and adjusted protocols, the project will expand to 15 locations.

Improving Oral Health Among Patients at the Worcester Free Care Collaborative Clinics by Increasing Access to Dental Services and Education proposed by medical students Tyler Healy, Grant Garcia, Mina Botros and James Ledwith, MD, assistant professor of family medicine & community health: At the monthly Oral Health Night at the Epworth Methodist Free Medical Program, dental hygienists and students from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences will work alongside medical students to integrate free fluoride varnish applications and dental screenings into the usual clinical evaluation.

Enhancing Social Skills for Transition-Age Teens/Young Adults with Autism XR proposed by Isha Jalnapurkar, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry; Julie LeMoine, assistant professor of psychiatry; Mo Hammad Modarres, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry; and medical student Linh Nguyen: This project aims to enhance the Program for the Education and Enrichment Relational Skills (PEERS), a social skills treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. By using virtual environments generated by computer technology, the project will reduce the number of personnel required to deliver the program.

Diabetic Foot Ulcers proposed by Tammy Nguyen, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery, and Mallory Gibbons, NP, and Jessin Varghese, NP, nurse practitioners at the UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence: The team will expand the UMass Homeless Diabetic Foot Screening Clinics and build a more accessible and sustainable follow-up program for diabetic foot continuity of care to prevent diabetes-related complications in the homeless population and decrease their use of emergency health care.

North High School students
participate in a radiology demonstration

ScienceLIVE – Refine Modules and Enhance Training, Materials and Follow up proposed by Mary Pickering, PhD, senior staff scientist in biochemistry & molecular biotechnology; Christina Baer, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology & physiological systems; Angela Messmer-Blust, PhD, assistant professor of RNA therapeutics; and Athma Pai, PhD, assistant professor of RNA therapeutics: ScienceLIVE, a STEM education and outreach program that completed 75 virtual science presentations for more than 1,800 Worcester Public middle school students during the 2020 to 2021 academic year, will be improved by incorporating companion activities with follow-up materials including student and teacher worksheets.

UMass Memorial Health Pediatric Diabetes program proposed by Leslie Soyka, MD, associate professor of pediatrics: This project will create a new workbook and set of videos specifically for the rapidly growing population of youth with type 2 and prediabetes. All pediatric diabetes patient workbooks and video scripts will be translated into Spanish and Portuguese. 

Supporting Caregivers and Professionals to Address Problematic Sexualized Behavior in Children proposed by Sasha Svendsen, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics; Mary Harris, LICSW, clinical social worker for the UMass Memorial Child Protection Program; and Diane Lanni, lead trauma coach for UMass Memorial Foster Children Evaluation Services: Child health professionals and caregivers will be provided with information and practical strategies to reinforce healthy sexual development and healthy relationships through a child-focused approach, ultimately promoting resilience and well-being in these children to reduce the fear, shame and stigma surrounding this behavior.

UMass Chan Medical School-Worcester Technical High School Biotechnology Program Cooperative Internships proposed by William Theurkauf, PhD, professor of molecular medicine, Crystal Auger, biotechnology department head and Mary Blute, co-op coordinator at Worcester Technical High School: Internships for seniors in good standing will provide significant research opportunities to a traditionally underserved high school student population and provide invaluable mentoring opportunities to UMass Chan Medical School graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. 

Medical Professionals of Tomorrow proposed by medical students Xinmiao (Bridget) Yang, Michelle Chang and Nicholas Belizaire; MD/PhD candidate Kevin O’Connor; Robert Layne, EdD, assistant dean of outreach programs; and Maria Garcia, MD, professor of medicine and assistant vice provost for diversity and student success: The Medical Professionals of Tomorrow program at North High School in Worcester will revise and renew in-person and virtual programs to improve racial underrepresentation in health care careers. Resources include textbooks and SAT prep books to help students prepare for college.

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