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UC Irvine Family Medicine Residents Reach Out to Local Schools

Family Medicine School Outreach Project
Amal Gergis-Aquino, DO teaches a class of local students about the value of regular visits to the doctor

How everyone benefits from community outreach

When budget cuts slashed health programs in many Orange County school districts, UC Irvine’s Family Medicine residency program embarked on an ambitious project: to adopt struggling districts and provide health care to students.

Since 2010, Family Medicine residents have stepped into the breach created by layoffs and funding issues to offer several different kinds of services:

  • Direct patient care. Residents provide both acute and chronic/preventive care to children.  For many low-income children, this might be their best chance to see a physician.  Moreover, direct patient care on site allows more children to stay in school and more parents to stay at work.
  • Health education. Residents have led classes on every subject from healthy eating for elementary school students to first aid for teachers to sexual health for middle school students.  It is powerful to have a physician delivering these messages.
  • Mentoring. Woven throughout the continuity of experiences at schools are the themes of promoting school achievement and health careers.  Residents visit the same school districts over their second and third years of training, allowing them to develop relationships with students who need role models.

The School Outreach Project is continuing its commentum of providing clinical care, health education, and mentorship.  

Our residents now go to Centralia School District (Anaheim, kindergarten through 7th grade),  Placentia/Yorba Linda High School District, Anaheim Union High School District and Pegasus School in Huntington Beach. This year, our school-based outreach program has expanded to provide medical care and health education to Orange County's Alternative Community and Correctional Education Schools and Services (ACCESS) program. ACCESS provides education to the county's children from particularly disadvantaged backgrounds, and these children and adolescents suffer some of the most acute health disparities in the county.

This experience teaches the residents about the importance of community outreach, health education and mentoring, and it also imparts critical leadership skills, as the senior resident is charged with coordinating and improving the project in each district. 

The School Outreach Project will continue to evolve and succeed, and it is now a signature experience of the UC Irvine residency program in Family Medicine.