United to Serve draws more than 1,000

By Ali V. Adams 

When the clock struck midnight on Friday, April 16, UT Southwestern students were putting the finishing touches on their exhibits for the seventh annual United to Serve event.

Students from UT Southwestern’s three schools — the medical school, school of health professions and graduate school of biomedical sciences — transformed nearby T.J. Rusk Middle School into a makeshift health care facility and medical mini-carnival, complete with games, food and prizes.

Medical student Dat Le looks for passengers to take part in the Magic Science Bus exhibit at United to Serve.

More than 10 months of preparation by nearly 60 students paid off when families began to line up before the doors opened for the event.

First held in 2004, United to Serve is part of the UT System-wide day of service, and it has become an event the community relies on. This year the April 17 occasion drew more than 400 volunteers from the medical center to provide free health screenings; immunizations and school sports exams; healthy-cooking demonstrations; and educational information about health issues such as cancer, heart disease and depression.

“The beautiful thing about a volunteer opportunity like United to Serve is the ability to join people from all over UT Southwestern and get into our surrounding community, where the need is great,” said Bennett Waxse, second-year medical student and chairman of this year’s event. “It’s wonderful to see such a blend of medical students, health professions students, graduate students and staff members working together in the name of UT Southwestern.”

More than 1,000 people participated in this year’s event, receiving 60 sports physicals, more than 30 vaccinations, and 54 mammograms in the UT Southwestern Center for Breast Care Digital Mammography Unit, a state-of-the-art mobile facility.

Maria Miranda attended the health fair for the second consecutive year with her mother, cousin and four children. “Coming to the health fair and getting screenings, health care information and education on where to go to find additional care is a wonderful benefit to us,” Ms. Miranda said. “The kids also have a fun time learning about science and winning fun prizes.”

Ms. Miranda and her family took part in a new feature, receiving a personal picture of their health. Upon arrival, each participant was given a number that allowed volunteers to track each person’s test results as they traveled from one health screening to another. In addition to participants obtaining their health information, the process provided students with a benchmark of needs still to be addressed in the community.

“This was our first year to coordinate data among our eight screenings,” Mr. Waxse said. “By looking at those who visited multiple screenings, we’ll be able to identify the aspects of health that most concern our community. By correlating the data, we’ll be able to realize the incidence of concurrent morbidities within our population. With these results, we also will be able to better tailor our education materials to the needs of our patrons and hopefully organize some concrete referrals in the years to come.”

One of the busiest attractions at the event — for kids and adults alike — was the medical museum.

Dr. Lisa Jolly checks the blood pressure of 8-year-old Gianni Bowie, one of the many Dallas residents who took part in United to Serve.

Coordinated by UT Southwestern students and inspired by a child’s curiosity, the medical museum took children on an interactive science experiment through the human body. After learning about everything from nerves to teeth — including the circulatory and digestive systems, healthy eating and even bike safety — children left the exhibit with a better understanding of science and a personally decorated bicycle helmet.

The main attraction of the medical museum was the Magic Science Bus, a new exhibition. This 15-minute show guided kids through a tour of the human body. Children engaged in experiments, including demonstrations of how air moves through the lungs and what happens when the body produces acid in the stomach, which was demonstrated by an exploding 2-liter soda bottle.

“The Magic Science Bus was a great way to educate kids about various organs in the body using informative yet visual hands-on experiments,” said Dat Le, a second-year medical student and the mastermind behind the exhibition. “The show illustrated that science can be both educational and a lot of fun.”

Mr. Waxse said that volunteering for the event carries rewards for UT Southwestern students as well.

“Whether it’s getting into the classroom to shed light on sexually transmitted diseases or the perils of smoking, exposing the wonders of the human body to wide-eyed children, or screening more than 250 individuals for diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, United to Serve helps students realize the importance of becoming community citizens no matter where they may be or what they may be doing,” Mr. Waxse said.