When Christina Meade, MD, was invited by a fellow resident to give a talk about kidney health – one of her clinical interests – to people in the local community, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I love medicine, specifically preventive medicine, and to educate people in our local communities about their health and wellness is what makes my job so wonderful and exciting,” said Meade, a second-year resident in the Department of Medicine. “After I participated in the talk, my passion for primary care was rejuvenated.”
Last year, Rich Joseph, MD, MBA, a third-year resident in Primary Care and Population Medicine, approached Paul Ridker, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, about possibly launching an ongoing health and wellness series led by residents at Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center in Dorchester. Ridker, who at the time was the board chair of Sportsmen’s, said he instantly loved the idea, knowing the series could benefit both Brigham residents and community members.
Ongoing since September 2017, the “Health Discussions” series takes place twice a month at the Brigham and Women’s Center for Community Wellness, Dorchester, located within Sportsmen’s. Each course focuses on a different health- and wellness-related topic, with more than 20 sessions held to date. Courses have covered diabetes and hypertension, dementia and arthritis, among other topics.
Opened in 2015, the goal of the Brigham and Women’s Center for Community Wellness Center at Sportsmen’s is to advance health and chronic disease prevention in underserved communities of Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury. The facility includes both classroom space for educational activities and a full gym, free to anyone living in the area.
For Ridker, the center has been a “terrific way for the Brigham to have a positive impact on preventive health in underserved neighborhoods where so many of our patients live and work.”
Wanda McClain, MPA, vice president of Community Health and Health Equity, agreed, adding the “Health Discussions” program shows the power of collaboration. “Bringing together health care providers, community residents and Sportsmen’s is a perfect trifecta for improving community health,” she said.
Toni Wiley, Sportsmen’s executive director, has seen firsthand how valuable the courses have been for attendees.
“I’ve heard many success stories from our members who’ve attended the ‘Health Discussions’ sessions,” Wiley said. “Some have lost a few pounds, and others have come to understand how their medications truly work. It has been truly gratifying to hear people talk about how attending these sessions has been life-changing for them.”
The series has a loyal following. William Mitchell, of Mattapan, has attended nearly every “Health Discussions” session, even inviting friends to join him. A retired firefighter, Mitchell said he appreciates the residents’ thoughtful, insightful presentations.
“To me, it’s a great thing to bring health and wellness education into the local community,” he said. “I’m grateful that the Brigham and Sportsmen’s came together to bring this goodness to our community, which is helping many of us live a better life.”
The series has also benefited Brigham trainees by providing opportunities to “get outside one’s comfort zone” and talk about health and wellness in a setting other than the hospital, Joseph explained.
Since the series launched, Joseph has heard from many resident colleagues who are interested in getting involved.
“It feels good knowing our work is helping others,” said Joseph, noting the series is a collective effort and would not be possible without the support of his resident colleagues.
BWH Emergency Medicine residents and Boston Children’s Hospital pediatric residents are among those involved in the series. Since Sportsmen’s offers programs for all ages, Joseph said it has been valuable to have residents from different specialties share their expertise.
Joseph, along with a handful of other Brigham residents, including Joshua Lang, MD, MS, a third-year resident in Internal Medicine, are also teaming up with Sportsmen’s to launch related programs, including community health fairs and an educational series for children attending summer camp at Sportsmen’s. Lang said it has been wonderful to participate in this work. “I feel pretty lucky to have found out about it,” he said.
Joseph added: “Partnering with Sportsmen’s has been one of the best decisions I’ve made as a resident. For me, this is the type of work that keeps me going – it’s very motivating. I love showing people the process of discovering their own health and taking care of themselves.”