By: Christina Torrealba (she/her), Graduate Student in Community Health and Epidemiology
The Dalhousie Medicine Service Learning Program helps first year medical students prepare for community-engaged experiences through content in the Professional Competencies class. The program also provides medical students with an optional opportunity to participate in collaborative community-engaged experiences in their second year. I sat down with Qëndresa Sahiti, a second year medical student, Service Learning Program participant, and dear friend of mine, to learn more about her project.
Qëndresa is working with the SeaStar Child and Youth Advocacy Centre, an interdisciplinary support service for children and youth who may have experienced violence or abuse, based out of the IWK Health Centre. SeaStar works in collaboration with Halifax Regional Police/RCMP, Nova Scotia Department of Community Services, Nova Scotia Department of Justice, Nova Scotia Department of Education, Mi’kmaq Family and Children’s Services, and Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, bringing together a variety of different professionals. “SeaStar offers an integrated approach to these supports and services that aims to reduce the trauma associated with these investigations,” says Qëndresa.
For her Service Learning project, Qëndresa is creating a child-friendly animated video that explains what to expect during a visit to SeaStar. “We know that these visits can be anxiety-provoking for families,” Qëndresa says, “we hope that this video will help children and youth feel more comfortable and prepared attending their visit.”
The Service Learning Program is important for medical students because it allows us to truly become integrated into our communities, beyond the health care institutions in which we train. It provides valuable perspective for students regarding the impacts of the social determinants of health and gives us insight into the work that community organizations are doing to address these gaps. By being more aware of this, medical students and physicians can use their positions of privilege to advocate for these organizations and the populations which they serve. Being exposed to the network of community supports available in Halifax is also helpful in the medical care that we provide, because we can better connect our patients to the services and supports that may benefit them.”
Qëndresa says that the Service Learning Program has helped her integrate her passions for both science and art, allowing her to improve the patient experience for a vulnerable population in a creative way. “It allows me to use some of my artistic skills to truly learn about the ‘art’ of practicing medicine,” she says, “it has enriched the scientific and clinical information that I have learned in my lectures and tutorials by teaching me more about the context in which we provide this care. The context includes the various social determinants of health and the ways in which these determinants intersect.”