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Center for Solutions Through Research in Diet & Exercise

STRIDE Applauds Biology Class that Pairs Students With Healthcare Service Learning Opportunities

Students from Biology 470/471, Service Learning For The Health Professions,
pictured above while working  at the Syringe Exchange Program.

A pre-med student worked winter quarter with a local doctor making house calls and delivering low cost, urgent care services as part of her coursework. Some of her classmates prepared nutritionally balanced meals for cancer patients while others delivered overdose prevention seminars. All of these students were enrolled in Biology 470/471, Service Learning For The Health Professions.

Through this course, instructors Candace Winstead, an Associate Professor of Biology and a STRIDE affiliate, and Meghan Farrier Nolan, an advisor with the College of Science & Mathematics, provide students interested in pursuing careers in healthcare professions with hands-on experience. Students are paired with a local organization, based on their interests and skill sets, and then discuss their experiences, challenges and observations during class each week. Winstead and Farrier Nolan hope to connect the students with direct service learning field experiences in different settings. 

Winstead described service learning as, “a mutually beneficial relationship in which the student provides an important service for the organization, while also receiving experience working with different populations, especially those that are stigmatized.”

“This is supposed to be a meaningful experience. Students are supposed to be doing something for the organization,” Winsted said. “It’s not just volunteering.”

There are 15 students enrolled in the course winter quarter. Most of the students are pre-med, but several are studying nutrition and public health. After taking a survey the first day of class, Winstead and Farrier Nolan paired students with one of seven organizations, including SLO-Syringe Exchange, the Wellness Kitchen, CAP-SLO Adult Day Center and San Luis Obispo County Public Health Programs.  

After their service learning experiences, the students return to class for discussions on their interactions with clients, the organization’s structure and healthcare needs in different settings.

Winstead and Farrier Nolan started the course to offer students local opportunities to work with healthcare professionals. The two started the course after advising an on-campus club for an international medical missions program. 

“Lots of pre-med students think they have to do these global experiences to get into medical school,” Winstead said. “Students do not have to go across the globe to fulfill health needs.”

For more information or two get involved, please contact Candace Winstead at cwinstea@calpoly.edu

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