Volunteers aid community at school fair

UT Southwestern doctors and medical students traded their stethoscopes and lab coats for paintbrushes and shovels this spring for a fair at T.J. Rusk Middle School in Dallas.

It was all part of National Volunteer Week 2005 in which all of the universities in the UT System participated.

UT Southwestern volunteer students, staff and faculty painted Rusk's second floor, cleaned up litter, restored flower beds and provided health screenings and information to families of children who attend the school and seven of its feeder elementaries.

health fair
Graduate student Kenter Singleton and second-year medical student Christy Drew help 8-year-old Eric Izaguirre plant flowers during the community fair at T.J. Rusk Middle School.

"T.J. Rusk's proximity to UT Southwestern makes it a perfect place to help our neighbors," said Wes Norred, vice president for student and alumni affairs. "We're excited about the opportunity to serve the people who live in our neighborhood."

Hundreds of UT Southwestern staff, physicians and students volunteered for the event, which included presentations by the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Society, Carter BloodCare and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

In addition, UT Southwestern students gave a live cooking demonstration teaching families the benefits of healthy meal preparation. Some of the volunteers set up a huge carnival for the kids with face-painting and games.

Inside the school's two gymnasiums, families received free blood-pressure screenings and health referrals.

Son Le, a student at UT Southwestern Allied Health Sciences School, screened about a dozen participants for high blood pressure.

"We try to give them easy tips for reducing blood pressure, like controlling salt intake and doing some moderate daily exercise -- even if it's just walking around the block," Mr. Le said.

Children's Medical Center Dallas' CareFlight helicopter and the Dallas Fire Department ambulance also made appearances.

"I think it's extremely important that UT Southwestern and our school work together to educate parents about health issues -- nutrition, diabetes, blood pressure and exercise are all important topics for our families at T.J. Rusk," said Lynn Kircher, principal of the school.