Tourist attractions are the usual highlights on a bus tour, but Becca Perin, M.D., had different sights on the itinerary for more than two dozen new UAMS pediatric interns this summer. Each stop was planned to help them provide the best possible care for some of Arkansas’ most vulnerable children.
“The bus tour was a way to show our brand new interns, who are just beginning their training to become pediatricians, some of the many things that impact a child’s health,” said Perin, an assistant professor in the General Pediatrics Section of the Department of Pediatrics who serves as an associate director of the Pediatrics Residency Program.
“The medical care we provide in clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital is just one small element of taking care of a child,” she said. “Social determinants of health are extremely important, and we wanted to show our interns what it means, for example, to have food insecurity and live in a food desert with limited access to nutritious, affordable food, and what it is like to have housing insecurity.”
The June 20 tour introduced the interns to many community organizations that serve low-income families and children with special needs, such as the Immerse Center, which supports children aging out of foster care and other youths in crisis.
“For many families in need, their child’s pediatrician may be their only access point for learning about community resources, and they look to their pediatrician for help in navigating those resources,” said Perin, who modeled the bus tour partly on an innovative program at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
The interns also learned about the role of Central High School in the integration of public schools and the Civil Rights Movement, and explored African American history and culture at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.
An internship is the first year of residency training for medical school graduates. A pediatrics residency is three years, and many graduates continue their training with a fellowship in a subspecialty such as pediatric cardiology, neonatology or critical care medicine for one or more additional years. This year’s 26 pediatric interns came to UAMS and Arkansas Children’s from 16 states and two other countries. Five interns training in medicine-pediatrics, a four-year program, also participated in the bus tour.
Sydney Middleton, M.D., a pediatric intern who graduated from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham, was eager to learn about factors impacting the lives of the children and families she will be caring for during her residency. She had been active in the student-run free clinic in Birmingham, serving as the organization’s outreach executive officer during her second year.
“So much of patient care involves social elements that are not taught in textbooks in medical school, so getting out in the community and learning about those we care for was an invaluable experience,” Middleton said.
“The tour was incredibly well done, and it helped me start to recognize some of the disparities, resource needs and locations of our families within this community,” she said. “It also provided me with options for how we can address some of these needs. I am so grateful to Dr. Perin for putting this together because now I have a better, clearer perspective from which to care for my patients while here in Little Rock.”