The Summer Service-Learning Assistantship Program

Location: Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, 3rd Floor, Benedict Building
Telephone: 774-441-6366 or 774-442-2930

Background: The Summer Service-Learning Assistantship Program offers medical students the opportunity to work in a variety of community-based health, education and human service organizations during the summer months after the first year of medical school.

The main goals of the program are to:
-Provide unique service-learning experiences for future physicians.
-Offer medical students an opportunity to explore ideas and a focus for a Capstone project.
-Help students understand the connection between an individual’s health and a community’s health.
-Enhance students’ understanding of the larger community of professionals providing care and meeting the needs of underserved populations, as well as local resources and programs of benefit to their patients.
-Provide community based organizations with supplemental staffing and services.

Through this program, the University of Massachusetts Medical School establishes and/or strengthens relationships with community-based health, education and human service organizations that work with underserved populations across the state. Students meet with the UMMS faculty coordinators five times during the course of the summer, to discuss and reflect upon their experiences using a semi-structured discussion format. As a means of enhancing the learning experience, students write reflective essays and present posters at the conclusion of the summer. Financial support is provided by the Office of Under- graduate Medical Education, the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, and the Massachusetts Area Health Education Network.

The Summer 2015 Service-Learning Assistantship Program proved to be highly successful, with many key community agencies participating as host community sites and a strong group of enthusiastic community-engaged medical students applying to the program. Fourteen students were placed in agencies located in Worcester, Holyoke, and Amherst for five to eight weeks of part-time or full-time work. Their experiences ranged from developing training materials for community health workers to developing protocols for hypertension care in a community health center. Students worked with the Worcester Division of Public Health in immunization planning and with the Hector Reyes House to train program managers in the use of Medline Plus online resources. Several students also continued the work of the “Farm to Family Health Center” program in becoming integrated with patient care and the electronic medical record, so a family physician can write a prescription for vegetables and the patient can fill the prescription with locally-sourced produce at the farmer’s market co-located in the building.