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Project Assessing 'Grand-Aides' Health Care Initiative in Inner Mongolia Wins Top JPC Prize

April 21, 2011 — The prize for the best Jefferson Public Citizen presentation has gone to a group of University of Virginia students whose project focused on improving health care in Inner Mongolia with the help of grand-aides, senior community members who receive medical training.

This year's Jefferson Public Citizen Scholars – 81 undergraduates who received awards for the current academic year to assist them in conducting group public service projects – presented their work April 13 to a panel of University of Virginia faculty in a year-end competition.

The Jefferson Public Citizens program is a comprehensive academic public service program that integrates students' service and research experiences throughout their time at the University.

The students' projects ranged from "Women in Livestock Development" in Gulu, Uganda, to "Strings and Things," a pilot project at Venable Elementary School in Charlottesville that will examine how musical instruction for elementary school children affects youth’s academic and social emotional skills.

All 20 groups did an "excellent job" on their presentations, said Megan Raymond, director of academic community engagement in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

The "Grand-Aides Program in Inner Mongolia" project was the work of a half-dozen third-year students: Christiana White, who has an interdisciplinary major in science, public policy, economics and ethics; Lily Bowles, a political and social thought major; Gordon Carver, majoring in economics and commerce (with concentrations in finance and accounting); Forrest Compton majoring in finance; Alex Eschenroeder, a political and social thought major;  and Mary Van Meter, majoring in biology and economics. ¬In their presentation, they discussed their travel to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia last summer, where they worked for three weeks alongside doctors and patients at the Inner Mongolia Medical College to develop a methodology for assessing a new grand-aides health care initiative.

Similar grand-aides pilot programs are under way in rural Virginia, Houston and rural Shanghai.

Findings so far show that "in Virginia, 25 percent of adult and pediatric emergency department visits and 17 percent of family physician clinic visits could be cared for by a grand-aide, with significant cost savings calculated to be approximately $150,000 net per grand-aide per year," according to the Grand-Aides Foundation website.

The results are even more striking in Inner Mongolia: 49 percent of emergency department visits and 63 percent of community visits could be handled by a grand-aide with supervision.

The foundation website notes the need for new models for providing health care stems from an inadequate workforce worldwide, short at least 2.3 million physicians, nurses and midwives.

The Grand-Aides Foundation is headed by Dr. Arthur Garson Jr., U.Va.'s executive vice president and provost, who served as the faculty adviser for the Jefferson Public Citizens group that went to Inner Mongolia. The group's graduate mentor was Michael Marquardt, who is pursuing a master's in public health from the School of Medicine and a master's in business administration from the Darden School of Business.

In their presentation materials, the students noted that their goal was "to gather baseline health care data that will be used to determine whether or not the current health care system in Hohhot will be significantly improved by the Grand-Aides program."

For their winning project, a $500 award will be given to their community partner, the Inner Mongolia Medical College, to continue its work with the grand-aides program, Raymond said.

Another Jefferson Public Citizens group received an honorable mention for its project, "The Healing Power of Adapted Creative Movement," which studied ways to help children with incurable neurological disorders improve physically, cognitively, socially and psychologically through creative movement and dance.

The students – Emily Lee, a fourth-year biology major and dance minor; Amy Copeland, a fourth-year biology major and dance minor; Casey Brown, a fourth-year double major in cognitive science and psychology; and Latasha Nadasdi, a fourth-year majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology  – worked with a recreational therapist at the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center and recorded changes in the patients' range of motion, psychological state and overall musicality.

Their faculty adviser was Rose Beauchamp of the drama department in the College of Arts & Sciences; graduate mentors were Matthew Lerner and Allison Jack; and the community partner was the U.Va. Children’s Hospital.

The committee that judged the groups' presentations included cell biology professor Barry Hinton of the School of Medicine; Emily Nelson, a Fifth-Year Anspaugh Fellow in studio art in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences; community representative Jean Norum, a part-time systems analyst in the Office of Institutional Assessment and Studies; and Marcia Pentz, a lecturer in the McIntire School of Commerce.

In addition to the 81 undergraduates, 19 faculty advisers and 15 graduate mentors participated in the Jefferson Public Citizen program this year.

The 2010-11 Jefferson Public Citizens award recipients and their projects are listed here.

"The projects were quite impressive," said Raymond, noting that the program, now in its second year, was identified as a University priority by the Commission on the Future of the University and approved by the Board of Visitors in October 2008. The students have "set the bar quite high for next year's JPC teams."

— By Rebecca Arrington

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