HOW WE BEGAN

Community is such a big part of who we are. It is ingrained in our culture and we knew we had to find a way to formally integrate service into our curriculum. Community-Engaged Learning was the perfect way to do it. It started as a pilot program in 2015 with 60 student volunteers. Since then, Community-Engaged Learning at EVMS has developed into a thriving curriculum. The program was embedded into the MD curriculum in 2016 and has seen tremendous growth since. Community-Engaged Learning has about 600 MD students, 160 Physician Assistant students, and 45 Medical Master’s students actively engaged in 19 different engagement initiatives directly addressing our region’s priority health needs.

COMMUNITY-ENGAGED LEARNING

Through affiliated academic and clinical programs, community collaborations, and programs for underserved local, global, and rural populations, our learners gain experience addressing health issues in local communities by applying local and global concepts. From the time the students start at EVMS through to graduation, students continually develop the necessary hands-on experience and expertise in critical skills to become strong, community-oriented health professionals.

Community engagement at EVMS uses the Carnegie Classification Institutions of Higher Education definition of community engagement which describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.  

Community engagement at EVMS is focused on the aspects of policy and advocacy, clinical care, education, community outreach, research, and community service. These areas aim to build trust, enlist new resources and allies, create better communication, and improve overall health outcomes as successful projects evolve into lasting collaborations.

Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) at EVMS integrates education, research, and clinical training programs focused on building strong leaders in the health community and beyond. CEL thoughtfully combines meaningful community service with structured learning and reflection experiences to enhance our students’ overall learning experience. It strengthens foundational science knowledge, clinical skills and problem-solving skills in the context of real-world experience.

Many of our learners note that this unique aspect of their EVMS education inspires them to continue serving throughout their careers. More than half of EVMS students noted that this unique aspect of EVMS education affected their choice of school. Many of those who stay locally for residency continue to volunteer in CEL initiatives beyond graduation.

From the inception of our tracking system in 2018 to date, our students have logged over 78,000 hours, which adds up to an economic value of $2.2 million of impact on the community.

IDENTIFYING HAMPTON ROADS’ PRIORITY HEALTH NEEDS

AT EVMS, the community has a voice. We have developed a process framework that is called the Community-Driven Data-Informed Approach.

We begin by first identifying our region’s priority needs and then developing major pathways and subsequent initiatives that can address community needs and support learning. The three-tier approach to identifying priority health needs consists of the following:

  1. Community Advisory Board: Through a Community Advisory Board (CAB) made up of lay persons from the local neighborhoods, relationships are developed, and ongoing conversations are conducted about the community's priorities from their perspective. Some of the members of CAB, who would not typically have a powerful voice, are able to share experiences, values and concerns of their own communities.

  2. Community Leader Input: Feedback and input from community leaders is sought. The Healthy Hampton Roads Coalition is a group of community leaders who annually publish a list of the area’s priority health needs. By utilizing this document and ensuring it is updated, CEL can access community leaders’ priorities.

  3. Objective Data Sources: Objective data made available through three primary sources is studied:

    • Local hospital and health department Community Health Needs Assessments (CHAs) or Community Health Improvement Plans (CHIP)

    • Local community foundation data (e.g., Hampton Roads Community Foundation data)

    • National Foundation data (e.g., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Using this three-tier approach, a team of various stakeholders, including community partners and students, review the information and work together to synthesize key issues and all our pathways and initiatives aim directly at them.  We repeat this process every five years to keep our community impact focused on the current community needs.

Based on these needs community-engagement pathways were created.

Through our recent Community-Driven, Data-Informed Approach, we developed six areas or “Service Pathways” and each of our initiatives points directly at valued outcomes in one of them.

First Response: Initiatives in this pathway are aimed primarily at training and first-response actions that are necessary in case of cardiac arrest, stroke and other healthcare emergencies.

Nutrition and Exercise: Hypertension, diabetes, and obesity are three prevalent issues in our region. Initiatives in this service pathway focus on nutrition and exercise to tackle sedentary lifestyles and promote healthy living.

Health Equity: There are people in every region of our nation who have difficulty accessing health care. Achieving health equity also requires addressing social determinants of health and health disparities. Initiatives in this pathway focus on providing a fair and just opportunity to attain healthcare, especially for those who do not have ready access to due to various barriers they face.  

Older Adults and Chronically Ill: Older adults represent a rapidly growing demographic in Eastern Virginia. Initiatives in this pathway focus on older adults, the chronically ill, or disabled individuals.

Mental Health: Through our community-driven data-informed approach, several mental health-related issues in our community, including widespread depression, challenges with incarceration reentry, drug abuse, etc for both the individuals affected and their families were highlighted as leading problems.

Global Health Equity: Our community is increasingly diverse and more so from the presence of global organizations, immigration, and refugee placement here in Hampton Roads. This presents unique health disparities and inequities due to language or other barriers for this population and this pathway looks at these local health disparities from a global perspective.