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Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center’s Maternal Health Observership Provides Educational Opportunities for Rising Second-Year Med Students

An enthusiastic group of second-year medical students make up the 2023 cohort of the Maternal Health Observership Program at the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center (GRHIC). These scholars have dedicated their summer to developing a deeper understanding of maternal health, rural pediatric care, and how health disparities in these areas affect families living within Georgia. Students were selected to participate in this summer opportunity through applications from both Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) and Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) in Atlanta. This is the first summer that two students from Morehouse have participated in the program: Anahit Mehranian of Atlanta and Anchal Kumar of Suwannee.  MUSM participants include Meagan Andreasen of Warner Robins, Hannah Cabe of Harrison, Megan Kral of White Plains, and Mary Catherine Stamey of Valdosta. In addition, Hars Singh, a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Rural Pediatric Scholar from Bainbridge, is participating in the summer program.

The Maternal Health Observership is structured so students complete a variety of educational and hands-on learning activities over the course six weeks. Some of the highlights of the observership include attending GRHIC’s 2023 Maternal Health Symposium, participating in a maternal health speaker series, completing clinical site visits, attending an educational documentary screening and discussion about the epidemic of maternal mortality, and learning how to develop research skills by creating a scholarly project that focuses on identifying ways to improve maternal health in Georgia.

At the 2023 Maternal Health Symposium on June 22, each student had the opportunity to introduce a symposium guest speaker and form valuable connections with the physician experts while networking with others in attendance. This cohort came away inspired by the panelists who were recognized experts in the field of maternal health. Observership students described that it was motivating to learn from the type of physicians they one day wish to become. Students also explained that they liked the fact that the conference showcased “women who were supporting other women” and relayed that this is exactly the type of mentorship that they aspire to in their own practice of medicine. Hannah Cabe said, “The Maternal Health Symposium was a huge encouragement as I was able to see how OB/GYNs, pediatricians, nurses, and other valuable members of the health care team interact to provide high quality care to women in rural areas.” She continued, “The speakers were evidently passionate about the work they do, and they demonstrated the importance of utilizing all of the resources around you. I am encouraged, as a future doctor, that I will have excellent role models to look up to and learn from.”

The Maternal Health Speaker Series commenced on June 29 with a panel discussion of working mothers as a way for this cohort to hear first-hand about the lived experience of becoming a mother from the patient perspective. The observership students heard panelists’ reflections and stories that recounted how they approached their own pregnancies and their experiences of childbirth, along with what they wished they could have communicated with their own doctors. Hearing other women’s unique stories is a powerful way to teach these aspiring physicians the importance of developing active listening skills and empathy for their future patients.

Visiting clinics and shadowing practicing OB/GYNs and pediatricians in a rural practice setting generate the most excitement among summer program students. They are eager to take what they have learned in the classroom and witness what a day in the life of a busy OB/GYN and pediatric physician looks like.

The students will travel around the state to observe physicians at different medical sites, including:

  • Dr. Mark Boles, Dublin Women’s Center in Dublin
  • Dr. Keisha Callins, Community Health Care Systems, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Gray and Jeffersonville
  • Dr. George Capo, Upson Family Medical Center in Thomaston
  • Dr. Eva Martin, Houston County Health Department in Warner Robins
  • Dr. Justin Peterson, Coffee Regional Health Women’s Center in Douglas

Hars Singh, Children’s Scholar, will shadow six pediatricians, including:

  • Dr. Grace Davis, Sylvester Pediatrics
  • Dr. Leah Helton, Hope Pediatrics in Dublin
  • Dr. Brittany Lord, Eastman Pediatric Clinic
  • Dr. Johnny Peeples, New Life Pediatrics in McRae
  • Dr. Jennifer Stroud, Coffee Reginal Hospital Pediatric Group in Douglas

More events and special interactive learning opportunities will be completed throughout the summer as the program concludes July 28.  Students will participate in a simulation lab activity at MUSM, complete problem analysis poster presentations, learn about the experience of fathers during a panel discussion, and celebrate their observership experience with an awards luncheon.