Mini-Medical School expands health literacy in the First State

As she settled into the final class of the Delaware Mini-Medical School for 2016, Carol R. Ford of Talleyville was eager to learn what to expect as she ages.

“You can’t beat the information you get and what the instructors teach you,” said Ford, who has attended the free series of lectures at the John H. Ammon Medical Education Center the last three years. “Tonight is all about geriatrics.”

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She encouraged friends and family to sign up to learn about what it means to have heart failure or what kind of toll stress takes on the body — two of the topics covered in the six-week series. And Ford is not alone in finding the classes valuable.

“With medicine there is so much to learn, and everything is always changing,” said Marilyn Powers of Hockessin. “Anything you can learn is helpful.”

The Mini-Medical School is a partnership between Christiana Care and the Delaware Academy of Medicine/Delaware Public Health Association to achieve greater health understanding and literacy in the First State. Similar programs have been popular around the nation, said Timothy Gibbs, MPH, executive director of the Academy of Medicine/Delaware Public Health Association. The ninth round of classes, which drew between 117 and 160 students each night, was completed April 14 with attendees receiving a certificate of achievement.

Mini-Med School partiicipant Carol R. Ford of Talleyville was eager to learn what to expect as she ages.
Mini-Med School participant Carol R. Ford of Talleyville was eager to learn what to expect as she ages.

The classes are designed to impart in-depth medical information without pressure, in that there are no tests or grades. This year’s classes were taught by Christiana Care clinicians and a University of Delaware professor. The content is much like that of medical school, though no previous medical training is required. However, many of the younger attendees are thinking about medicine as a career.

Anthony Farmah of Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, certainly is. He is completing his undergraduate studies and working as a surgical technologist. “These classes are a great opportunity because I am interested in neurosurgery and going to medical school,” said Farmah, who is 32.

Alexis Paulino, a junior at Caravel Academy, feels similarly. “I am interested in becoming a nurse and thought this was a good way to learn some of my options,” she said. “And I am learning a lot.”

Each year students make suggestions for topics they would like covered the next year. This year’s classes on drugs, alcohol, addiction and concussions were suggested by students in 2015. Mark Lanyon, Ph.D., program manager with Project Engage, taught the class on addiction, and Kristopher Fayock, M.D., assistant director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship, addressed the topic of concussions.

The last speaker in this year’s series was Ina I. Li, M.D., director of Clinical Geriatrics and program director for Christiana Care’s home visiting program. Students praised her energetic and engaging lecture style.

“I am like Dr. Marcus Welby, going out with a black bag,” said Dr. Li, who also is medical director of the Visiting Nurse Association.

Dr. Li pointed out that aging is a process, not a disease, and that there are healthy ways to age. “Exercise is the ‘fountain of youth’ as it benefits all parts of your body from your brain to your joints. So keep moving!”