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Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM)-Auburn Medical Students Foster Healthier Communities with “Sam Gets In Shape”

VCOM Auburn students standing in front of research poster
By Brittany Lilla -

On Sept. 15, our second-year medical students at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM)-Auburn, marked a significant milestone in their Preventive Medicine curriculum as they presented their inaugural Community Research Projects. Working under the direction of Dr. Mayra Rodriguez, Discipline Chair of Preventive Medicine, the students collaborated with various community members to develop their health education initiatives. Our students showcased their work in a poster presentation session, giving members of the community and faculty/staff VCOM-Auburn a chance to celebrate the student’s commitment to research and the enhancement of community health.

A group of students comprising Matthew (Blake) Cook, Peyton Coots, Alex Cole, Patrick Blythe, Jenna Corley and Kristen Swanson, undertook a pivotal mission in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. Their project aimed to address the increasing rate of physical inactivity among children in the country using a novel approach. The group sought to examine children’s perceptions of a health education book and their likelihood of improved healthy habits. To do this, they wrote the book “Sam Gets In Shape” to assess their health education intervention.

The VCOM-Auburn student group meticulously deliberated over the book’s illustrations, language and the selection of a main character. After an exhaustive search, they secured a publication company and enlisted the talented group member Matthew (Blake) Cook to illustrate the entire book. The main character, inspired by Peyton Coot’s new puppy, was chosen to make the content relatable and engaging for younger children, with the goal of reducing local inactivity rates.

This project provided the VCOM-Auburn students with invaluable lessons, emphasizing the significance of early habit formation, the importance of delivering health education on fundamental topics, the acquisition of necessary resources and the intricacies of the research process. As aspiring healthcare professionals from VCOM-Auburn, this group of students not only advanced their own knowledge but also contributed to fostering healthier habits by working closely with their community.

When the VCOM-Auburn students shared “Sam Gets In Shape” with second graders, the impact was profound. Children enthusiastically engaged with the book and teachers applauded its quality. This memorable book left a lasting impression on the children’s lives, demonstrating its potential to drive positive change. The VCOM-Auburn student group now plans to expand their efforts, with a specific focus on studying more schools in Alabama’s rural areas. Their dedication continues to shine as they work towards building healthier communities.

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