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Medical and Dental Student Volunteers Lauded
By Jane Shaskan
"You do the work you do, not because you have to, not for extra credit, not because it will look good on a resume, but because you want to," said Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell, presenting UConn medical and dental students with a "Connecticut Treasures" award April 1 at the Health Center. The award recognizes the students' commitment to improving health care in the Greater Hartford community through outreach programs, education, screenings, and mentoring.
David Shapiro, Class of 2002, accepted the award on behalf of the medical students. Shapiro serves as medical director of the South Park Inn, a homeless shelter in Hartford. "It's something we do for the community," he said. The clinic is funded, organized and staffed by students.
Matthew Jacobsen, Class of 2003, accepted for the dental students. "The students and the Health Center are an asset to the community and the state, and this award helps get the news out," said Jacobsen, co-director of South Park Inn and the Special Olympics screening program. "We are separate schools, dental and medical, but we work together for the common good."
Medical and dental students have volunteered almost 10,000 hours to community health projects, and assisted in about 800 patient visits at the homeless shelter annually.
They are active in programs such as South Park Inn Homeless Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics, and the South Marshall Clinic, helping provide medical care and health education to adults, children and young people.
In 1998, the students established the Migrant Farm Worker Healthcare Program to improve the health of migrant workers during harvesting season by providing outdoor clinics at local farms. The Hartford Public Schools have benefited from curriculum developed and presented by students that provides health education to 6th and 7th graders. More than 400 Hartford students attended "Tar Wars," a smoking prevention program.
"We feel that our students participate enthusiastically and with great generosity," wrote Anthony Voytovich, dean of students at the Health Center, and Judy Lewis, director of community-based education, in their nomination letter. "They are truly interested in learning about the health of the people of Connecticut and how to make it better. Their contributions have benefited many. We are extremely proud of these young men and women."