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Development and evaluation of a service-learning model for preclinical student education in cardiovascular disease prevention

Authors Shah N, Rassiwala J, Ducharme-Smith A, Klein D, Kim A, Leung C, Dahdouh R, Havas S

Received 16 August 2015

Accepted for publication 16 October 2015

Published 11 March 2016 Volume 2016:7 Pages 153—161


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Maria Olenick

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Anwarul Azim Majumder

Nilay S Shah,* Jasmine Rassiwala,* Allison L Ducharme-Smith, David A Klein, Ashley S Kim, Claudia Leung, Rabih Dahdouh, Stephen Havas
Department of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA 

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Background: Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the USA. Medical schools must prepare trainees to address prevention, including improving ability in counseling patients to modify lifestyle risk factors. Most medical students do not receive significant training or clinical experience in preventive medicine until the clinical years of medical school. To enhance student education in disease prevention and lifestyle counseling, and simultaneously target cardiovascular disease prevention in high-risk Chicago neighborhoods, the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Chicago Department of Public Health with support from the GE Foundation, developed the Keep Your Heart Healthy program.
Methods: Medical students participated in intensive faculty-led training. They subsequently screened local residents to identify and counsel for cardiovascular disease risk factors. Fifty-one predominantly preclinical medical students screened residents of the Humboldt Park and North Lawndale neighborhoods in Chicago, IL, at 31 screening events from August to December 2013. Fifty students (98% response rate) completed a survey assessing the educational value of various program components following the pilot.
Results: Of all respondents, 92% of students reported improved knowledge of cardiovascular disease prevention and 94% reported improved knowledge of vulnerable populations and health equity. The majority (88%) reported that their participation supplemented material they learned in the classroom. Eighty-six percent of students reported that their encounters with community participants were of educational value. Integration of this program into the medical school curriculum was supported by 68% of students.
Conclusion: Keep Your Heart Healthy educates primarily preclinical medical students in cardiovascular disease prevention and prepares them to apply this knowledge for patient counseling. Results from student surveys demonstrate that this service-learning initiative enhances medical student knowledge in cardiovascular disease prevention, supplements classroom material, and provides students a valuable opportunity to apply interviewing and counseling skills in a real patient encounter.

Keywords: service learning, undergraduate medical education, cardiovascular disease, prevention, community health

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