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School of Medicine Wraps up Second Annual Mini-Med School for Kids

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

 Dr. Ligia Peralta led a frank discussion among the teen campers about sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

More than 30 children between the ages of 5 and 16 got a taste of medical school throughout July and August when the University of Maryland School of Medicine held its second annual Mini-Med School for Kids at the Salvation Army's Franklin Square Boys & Girls Club summer camp in West Baltimore.

"During 2007, our bicentennial year, the Office of Public Affairs hosted a special version of our Mini-Med School community outreach program," explained Heather Graham Phelps, Manager of Public Relations in the School of Medicine's Office of Public Affairs. "We geared it towards children and called it Mini-Med School for Kids. Last year’s program was such a success we decided to make it an annual event.

"Mini-Med School for Kids targets children from our underserved community in hopes of delivering key messages about important, and very relevant, health and lifestyle issues," Phelps continued. "It’s our intent to reach these kids while they are still young and healthy in order to instill valuable information about taking care of their bodies and making smarter health and lifestyle choices."

Things kicked off July 9 with a lesson for the older campers about sexually transmitted infections and HIV. It was led by Ligia Peralta, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine. There was some giggling, blushing and hiding of faces during her matter-of-fact presentation, but by the end the campers were comfortable enough to ask her important questions about how they can protect themselves from these illnesses. They also proved, through a fast-paced game of Medical ‘Jeopardy’, that they had indeed been paying attention and absorbing the material, despite its sensitive nature.

Mini-Med School for Kids continued each Wednesday over the next five weeks, covering such topics as diabetes, obesity and nutrition; stress relief and anger management; asthma; smoking, drug & alcohol abuse and addictions; and heart health and exercise. It ended August 13 with a visit to the medical school, where the campers had a lesson in Anatomy from Ron Wade, director of the State Anatomy Board and the Anatomical Services Division at the School of Medicine. They were also treated to a spoken word performance by David Ross of PHAT (Promoting Healthy Alternatives for Teens).

"We've formed a partnership with the School of Medicine that is really amazing," said Deborah Tyson, director of the camp. "The children wrote letters to camp benefactors about what they like most about camp, and every one of them talked about Mini Med School. They go home and tell their parents about eating healthy, exercising, not using drugs or selling drugs, not smoking or drinking, and I hear back from the parents that they are so impressed by everything their children have learned. It's been so wonderful, and we hope to have the chance to do it again next year, because it is an excellent program."

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 Dr. Kevin Ferentz answered campers' questions about the perils of drugs, alcohol and smoking.

 The girls were subdued as they took in the information Dr. Peralta had to offer.

 Each camper received a pedometer from Dr. Yvette Rooks so they can track how many steps they take a day. 13,000 steps is the goal for active youngsters.

 There were plenty of questions for Ron Wade about the body parts he presented as part of his Anatomy lesson.

 Stefan Larkins, a student working in Anatomical Services, helped Wade with the anatomy presentation.

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