Emory University doctors have developed a new way of teaching students about the effects of too much sun exposure, and during this process they also have created a community outreach program.
Since 2002, Emory School of Medicine's Department of Dermatology faculty members have encouraged Emory medical students to participate in a project called SunSmart Georgia. The program enlists the help of medical students to teach elementary school children about sun-protection.
Second-year medical students are taught about ultraviolet radiation, skin cancer and sun-protective measures as part of the School of Medicine curriculum. Once they have taken the course, they are offered an opportunity to volunteer for SunSmart. Student volunteers are given a basic script, and then they prepare creative presentations appropriate to the age group they are addressing. They use language children can understand and retain, and they use props such as colorful hats, sunscreen, beach bags and protective clothing. On the day of the presentations, students break up into teams of three to six and visit several classrooms. Each presentation takes about 15 minutes. "Both sets of students enjoy the interaction," says Mary Spraker, MD, professor in the Department of Dermatology and a pioneer of the project. "The medical students have an opportunity to teach in a very creative way, and the children are very receptive to these young doctors-to-be. Learning by teaching has been proven to be a more effective way of learning than traditional classroom methods and this is a great opportunity for these students."
The students visit one elementary school each year - once in January and again in April. The winter session teaches sun safety. The spring session is designed to remind the children about sun protection and to reinforce what they learned in January, just in time for spring and summer break.
"We are concerned about the rise in skin cancer we have seen over the last decade," says Suephy Chen, MD, assistant professor of dermatology. "We believe that by teaching children about sun protection while they are young, we can help curtail the current epidemic."
Dr. Spraker says her dream is to see the Emory project used as a model for medical schools across the country.