Public Release: 

New Indiana University School of Medicine pediatrics program focuses on patient advocacy

Funded by $2.5 million Anne E. Dyson Foundation grant

Indiana University

INDIANAPOLIS - Providing optimum health care to youngsters is far more than giving routine physical exams, making diagnoses, writing prescriptions and charting appropriate treatment plans. The ever-evolving role of pediatric physicians requires a fuller understanding of children's total environment and working with the community in which they live. That's the driving force behind a newly created outreach endeavor at the Indiana University School of Medicine Pediatrics Residency Program. Funded by a $2.5 million grant from the Anne E. Dyson Foundation, the initiative, Partnerships for Change: Putting the Puzzle Together, will team pediatric residents with residents and students from the IU Schools of Dentistry and Nursing at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.

Specifically, the Dyson grant establishes collaborative partnerships between the IU schools and family and community service organizations: the Hispanic Education Center, the Julian Center and the Indiana Parent Information Network.

"The initiative seeks to give pediatric residents the tools and knowledge they need to become more fully rounded physicians who are committed to improving the health of the children, more actively engage residents in the communities they serve and make them better advocates for their patients and families," says Sarah Stelzner, M.D., associate clinical professor of pediatrics.

The IU Pediatrics Training Program is the only one in Indiana and is responsible for training more than 85 percent of all practicing pediatricians in the state.

Dr. Stelzner, along with Steve Downs, M.D., M.S., associate professor of pediatrics, and Nancy Swigonski, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of pediatrics, are leading the initiative. They are joined by Karen Yoder, Ph.D., associate professor, IU School of Dentistry, and Mary Beth Riner, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor, IU School of Nursing.

The initiative shifts from a medical-only approach to care to what is called the "medical home model," emphasizing family centered, community based coordinated systems of health care that are culturally appropriate and effective. For example, residents will work directly with families served by or referred by the Hispanic Education Center, providing residents with a more direct opportunity to learn more about unique cultural and social environments affecting patients' health.

"The medical home model helps residents to more successfully function in a multitude and variety of roles and to better assess the needs of their patients and their environments," Dr. Downs says.

Pediatric residents also will work with youngsters at the Julian Center, an Indianapolis facility serving women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. Further, dental residents and nursing students will help the residents set up health programs in neighborhoods and schools.

The partnerships with the four organizations and numerous families will provide improved professional development for pediatric residents. The multidisciplinary approach also will develop a competency-based community pediatrics curriculum at the IU School of Medicine, and form collaboration between the medical school's Office of Medical Service-Learning, the Indiana State Department of Health and the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"We believe residents will be better able to synthesize what they learn in clinical practice with public health principles to broaden their perspective of care from the individual child to all children within the context of family, school and the community," notes Dr. Swigonski.


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