IU medical students join Boys and Girls Clubs of Indianapolis to educate on risks of drugs and alcohol

February 19, 2015

“Don’t do drugs” is a message that children hear all the time. But the words have a lot more impact when they come from a future doctor.

Students from the IU School of Medicine are teaming up with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis to provide positive, anti-drug messages -- as well as some basic education on health and the human body -- to children from urban school districts across the city.

Volunteers from the IU School of Medicine Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention Program -- a part of the school’s Office of Medical Service-Learning --  presented a next hands-on lesson to elementary school children Feb. 17 at the Lilly Boys & Girls Club, 801 South State Ave., near the Fountain Square neighborhood.

“It’s important for our kids to see people besides their teachers and older adults showing they care about their futures and education,” said David C. Strange, a volunteer coordinator for Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis. “A reliable group of young, career-driven medical students provide excellent role models. It’s not just people talking at them, it's people talking to them and putting information in their hands.”

That information includes the chance to touch and study sterile, plasticized human organs from individuals who have donated their bodies to advance medical education. In addition to providing a unique hands-on learning experience to hook children into the lesson, ASAP volunteer Anne McLaren said the organs are a valuable teaching tool to educate children about the body -- and illustrate underlying negative physical effects of substance abuse.

“We break the kids up into groups based on four different organ systems and provide information about where each system is located in the body, as well as how drugs and alcohol effects that organ system,” said McLaren, a fourth year medical student and co-coordinator for ASAP. “If we’re looking at the liver, for example, we talk about how alcohol affects it. If we’re looking at lungs, we talk about the effect of smoking.”

The medical students also provide helpful tactics to resist peer pressure and dispel common medical myths. And they encourage students who want to learn more to consider careers in medicine.

“All our volunteers love to interact with the kids,” McLaren said. “As medical students, we spent a lot of time our first few years studying. This is a way for us to get out of the classroom, share what we’re learning with the community and remind ourselves why we went into medicine in the first place: to help other people.”

About eight to 12 IU students volunteer for each Boys & Girls Clubs event, with a total of 20 volunteers from across all four years of medical school participating in ASAP this year alone.

Additional educational events presented by IU medical students over the past several months include visits to George Buck Elementary School (IPS 94); Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet School; and Francis Scott Key Elementary (IPS 103). Another event is also scheduled at Liberty Park Elementary in Beech Grove on April 4.

All events, except the event at Crispus Attucks, were coordinated with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis.

“The IU School of Medicine has become a great partner for the Boys & Girls Clubs,” Strange said. “The students are very committed. Their being out on the front lines, it helps a lot.”