Record number of LECOM students participate in Bridging the Gaps program

Troubled youth, homeless veterans, abused women, senior citizens, and other underserved groups in the Erie area received help and encouragement this summer from LECOM’s Bridging the Gaps program. Twenty-eight dedicated and caring medical students from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine spent seven weeks in June and July working at 18 different community sites. They shared their experiences during a poster presentation event on Wed. Aug. 24 at LECOM Erie.

Jason Black, a second-year medical student, worked with teen parents from the Erie School District's Student Parenting Program for his Bridging the Gap internship. Black became a teen father at age 17.


“Twenty-eight students is the largest number we’ve had since the inception of the program 16 years ago,” said Raeann Carrier, Ph.D., who is in her third year as LECOM’s Bridging the Gaps Director. Some of the LECOM students had first-hand knowledge of the organizations they helped. “We have a student parent in the program. We have someone who suffers from juvenile diabetes,” she said. Dr. Carrier said those students were able to relate to the groups they worked with because they had once been in their shoes and know what they’re going through.

Jason Black was one of those individuals. He became a teen father at age 17 and understands the struggles associated with teen parenthood. Black is now a second-year LECOM medical student. He and his wife have a seven-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. Black worked with about 40 teen parents through the Erie School District’s Student Parenting Program.

Raeann Carrier, Ph.D., has been LECOM's Bridging the Gaps Director for the past three years.

“It wasn’t until they found out that I myself was a teen father that they would even begin talking to me,” Black explained. “It was a very special experience for me to give back to kids in that position when I’ve experienced it first-hand and can tell them they don’t have to give up.”

LECOM student Shawna Kubasky worked with the Children’s Miracle Network of Saint Vincent Health Center. She reintroduced Scrubby Bear – a character that encourages hand washing to prevent infection – and traveled to day care centers and pre-schools throughout Erie. Kubasky taught children about the danger of germs and showed them the proper way to wash their hands. “It has been an entertaining yet valuable learning experience to discuss an important health concern with young children,” Kubasky said.

LECOM student Mark Bialas did his internship working with the Homeless Care Team at the Erie Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He said the veterans were easy to talk to and willing to express their opinions. “Speaking with veterans in the homeless care program, and visiting them in temporary homes was in many ways the most educational aspect of my summer experience,” Bialas said. “A simple site visit can often teach you things a conversation never could.”

LECOM student Shawna Kubasky (right) explains her internship to a visitor during LECOM's Bridging the Gaps poster presentation. Kubasky traveled to day care centers and pre-schools to teach young children about the importance of washing their hands.

Dr. Carrier said the students worked 40 hours a week. They spent 32 hours at their community sites. The remaining eight hours were spent shadowing physicians in various specialties and hearing from speakers in the medical profession. The students told her the experience changed their lives.

“The students come into their second year with a different perspective on how they’re going to interact in medicine once they graduate,” Dr. Carrier said. “They spend the school year learning about the science and the medicine behind it, but a good physician is going to care for the patient as a whole. What’s their home life? That’s the basis of osteopathic philosophy – looking at the patient as a whole."

Raeann Carrier, Ph.D., LECOM Briding the Gaps Director (left) poses for a group photo with students who participated in the 2011 LECOM Bridging the Gaps program.

The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, LECOM School of Dental Medicine and LECOM School of Pharmacy offer innovative and affordable education in osteopathic medicine, dentistry and pharmacy. From campuses in Erie, Pennsylvania, Greensburg, Pennsylvania and Bradenton, Florida, LECOM provides student-centered pathways to prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals. Prepare yourself for medicine as your life’s profession.



August 25, 2011
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