Bridging the Gaps celebrates 15 years of service to the Erie community
Students gather to reflect on experiences at annual poster presentation

The culmination of 15 years of community service through the Bridging the Gaps (BTG) program was celebrated Thursday, Aug. 27, 2010, as 25 second-year Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine medical students gathered to share their experiences serving with various non-profit organizations in the Erie community.

Each summer, BTG unites community sites that provide services to underserved populations in the Erie area with student interns through a seven-week paid internship program.

LECOM students, faculty and community members celebrated 15 years of community service through the Bridging the Gaps program on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2010. With 19 community sites hosting 25 LECOM interns this past summer, more than 5,600 service hours were logged. Posters showcasing each student's hard work were displayed in LECOM's Atrium.

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In addition to providing support to these agencies, LECOM students bring with them a wealth of medical knowledge that each student incorporates into projects and presentations used to educate members of these communities.

This year, 19 community sites were served by the largest group of BTG interns who contributed more than 5,600 hours of community service.

“If we look at 15 years across the board, I don’t know how many tens of thousands of hours we have contributed through Bridging the Gaps,” said Dr. Ann Stephanie Stano, PhD, a faculty preceptor who has been involved with BTG since its inception in 1995. “Our interns have done such an extraordinary job. What I’ve been able to see every year in each student is personal growth.”

One by one, interns took to the podium Thursday evening not only to elaborate on their own stories of personal growth, but also to share the gratitude they had for the program with the faculty members, site administrators, clients and peers who were present. Students later spoke individually to attendees in LECOM’s Atrium, while showcasing posters that compiled weeks of hard work.

Bryan Anderson, who served in the Millcreek Community Hospital ACE Unit (Acute Care for the Elderly) in the geriatric ward, was the BTG student coordinator who opened the event. Anderson said the program reaffirmed his passion for medicine and his love for working with the public.

Second-year LECOM medical student and Bridging the Gaps student coordinator Bryan Anderson opened Thursday evening's program. Anderson served in the ACE Unit of Millcreek Community Hospital, where he assisted in the geriatric ward.

“One thing I’ve really learned is that I just love working with people and I could do it for the rest of my life. I had the best experience at Millcreek Community Hospital,” Anderson said. “I feel like I’m in my fourth year of medical school right now from how much I’ve learned. It’s also changed me as far as who I want to be as I move forward. I know I want to work with an underserved population to some capacity.”

Bridging the Gaps Program Director Dr. Raeann Carrier, PhD, said the program not only offers real-life experience to student interns – who also received clinical experience while shadowing local physicians – but also instills within each student compassion for the patient.

“Some of them come into this program and they are so analytical – they want everything to be black and white. This program shows them that there are a lot of gray areas out there and they have to adapt to that as physicians,” said Dr. Carrier.

“After the Bridging the Gaps program, they will be more understanding of all the patients who come into their offices from this point forward because they’ve seen the other side of it; they see where patients come from and what their lives are like.”

LECOM student Lauren Weber, who worked with the House of Healing – an organization that guides women who have committed non-violent crimes and their children – said BTG definitely opened her eyes, changing the way she will forever perceive the patients who walk through her door.

Second-year LECOM medical student Lauren Weber reflects on her time at House of Healing, an organization that guides women who have committed non-violent crimes and their children. In her speech, Weber revealed how she came to look beyond stereotypes by connecting with clients on another level.

“I learned a lot about addiction, including how complex addiction is and how it is a disease. I’ve learned a lot about stereotyping – you just can’t have negative stereotypes,” she said.

“I wanted to participate in the program as soon as I heard about it. I don’t think I could have spent my summer a better way; I never felt better doing any other job or community service project.”

Bridging the Gaps began in Philadelphia in 1991. The program is now administered by the Bridging the Gaps Network, comprised of the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, the University of Pittsburgh, the Philadelphia Consortium: the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Temple University, Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Pennsylvania.

August 31, 2010
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