"We get strength and encouragement from watching children."
-- Hayao Miyazaki
When I first taught Future Doctors of America in South Austin a few years ago, it was quickly evident how impactful this 10-week after-school program would be...
First, the focus is on educating middle school students about the heart, along with heart disease and its prevention.
Cardiovascular disease continues to be the number one cause of death in the US, as it has been for nearly 100 years. Heart diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), atherosclerosis (thickening of the walls of the arteries), heart attack, and stroke affect most families in the US.
Most sources agree that as many as half of all deaths from cardiovascular disease are completely preventable with lifestyle practices including a healthy plant-based diet, regular exercise, stress management, and a strong community. The Future Doctors of America After-School Program was designed to inspire middle school students to engage in healthy lifestyle practices thru education about the heart, along with cardiovascular disease and prevention.
Second, the classes are taught to engage the students' curiosity about health and medicine.
Thru videos and interactive discussions, students discuss the heart and circulatory system with a doctor. They are given a stethoscope to practice listening to the heart beat, as well as explanation of the sounds they are hearing.
The students are exposed to a variety of paths to consider when looking for a career in health. Our group in Austin took a trip to the local hospital to learn from the cardiology department. And at Jefferson Middle School, the San Gabriel Fire Department brought their trucks to show the students some emergency cardiac equipment. (Some of the adults had the same look of amazement on their faces, by the way!)
Third, the students get to practice being the doctor for members of their community at the end of the program.
Future Doctors of America was designed to equip the students with basic knowledge about the heart and making healthier lifestyle choices. And, during the last week of the program, they get to practice sharing their knowledge by participating in a local community health fair.
During the health fair, The Future Doctors of America practice being the expert when they check heart rate as well as share tips about healthy eating, exercise, and stress management with their family, friends, and other loved ones. The students become the strength and encouragement for other members of their community to eat a little healthier, exercise a little more, be a bit more aware of managing stress, and support each other a little more along the way.
I was one of the many people whose life was changed thru after-school programs.
Future Doctors of America was designed to be a life-changing experience for the students that participate in it. It was created to inspire the students so much that they can't help but to inspire healthier habits in others also.
We are in the planning stages for the 2017-2018 academic year.
We are looking for administrators, foundations, and other sponsors to partner with Future Doctors of America to create a future less devastated by heart disease. If you are interested in helping to make this high-impact program available to more middle school students, please send a note to email@example.com.
And maybe, just maybe, some of their future families or patients will be able to escape the devastating effects of cardiovascular disease.