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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Spring 1994, Vol.14, No.2
Students Find Learning Beyond the Classroom
Individual Initiatives

Many students are active in the community on their own initiative. Last year, Lisa Furmanski'96 spoke to local junior high school students about sexuality and health issues as part of a community-based adolescent substance abuse program.

"While participating in programs sponsored by the American Medical Women's Association, I was troubled by a lingering deterrence of women in medicine and lack of encouragement for girls to excel in math and science," recalls Ms. Furmanski.
The Ms. Foundation for Women's daughters at work day provided a forum for her concern. "I wanted to address a compelling community problem-getting girls in this neighborhood to view medicine as a viable career option," says Ms. Furmanski. When bringing a group of girls to CPMC for the day proved logistically impossible, she turned to an idea that helped shape her own career pursuit.
At age 13, she was captivated by a PBS program that featured a neonatologist. From that day on, she wanted to be a doctor. With the help of her brother, who has a degree from NYU's film school, she produced a 14-minute videotape on a day in the life of a female physician. The physician, Dr. Susan Morales'86, participated in the community service program as a student and is now a general internist in the community-based internal medicine practice at CPMC. She speaks at colleges and medical schools to encourage women and minorities to consider careers in medicine. Several other female physicians offered commentary about their paths to medicine. Sherise Rivera, a 12-year-old student at PS/IS 187 in Washington Heights, narrated the video to provide MTV-style appeal.
"Lisa came to me with a finished product to get help in distributing the tape to schools," says Dr. Armstrong. "Otherwise, I would not have learned about Lisa's initiative." Dr. Armstrong offered to train medical students to lead discussions about goals and careers as a follow-up to the videotape. A screening of the videotape was on the program for this year's Take Our Daughters to Work Day in April.
Two other students started a program on their own. Mike Vitale, an M.D./MPH student, and Amory Fiore'95 became intrigued by a JAMA article on the REMEDY Program, which was started by Dr. William Rosenblatt, an anesthesiologist at Yale.
"The idea is to collect unused and otherwise disposed of surgical supplies, such as sutures, gloves, catheters, implants, and the like, to be forwarded to international relief organizations," says Mr. Vitale. They have initiated a REMEDY Program at CPMC, which promises to be one of the biggest volume producers among the 15 programs in operation throughout the country.
'We project a collection of up to $250,000 worth of supplies a year. This should save the hospital thousands of dollars by salvaging nearly three tons of red bag waste and reducing disposal hassles," says Mr. Vitale. "We believe that this effort could generate $30 to $40 million a year in donated supplies if it were implemented nationally."
These ambitious students collect unsterile, discarded supplies from the OR twice a week. Since the sterilization trays are often half empty, the students simply fill the extra space with their materials at no cost to the hospital. The supplies are sorted and sent to one of three agencies that receive and distribute medical supplies.
Though still in the process of working through the legal and administrative issues at Columbia, Mr. Vitale and Mr. Fiore plan to help other New York City hospitals establish medical collection programs. Mr. Vitale also plans to travel to South America with Direct Relief International to look at the type of health care provided, including manpower, supplies, and surgical practices. A follow-up study will be conducted to measure the impact of the donated supplies on health care.

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