Indiana University Uses Health of the Public Funding to Give Students Community-Based Clinical Experiences

Health of the Public: An Academic Challenge

From 1993 to 1997, researchers at Indiana University, Indianapolis, developed an interdisciplinary program that allowed students from the schools of social work, nursing, dentistry, and medicine to work with community partners to gain experience in population-based practice and research.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program Health of the Public: An Academic Challenge.

The initial partner was Harshman Middle School in Indianapolis, where participating university students focused on adolescent health.

Because the middle school initiative could accommodate only a few students, the project later collaborated with Indiana University's Homeless Initiative Program, an interdisciplinary team serving the medical and case management needs of homeless persons, which was already providing clinical learning experiences for students at the four schools.

Key Results:

  • An interdisciplinary team of Indiana University faculty and students conducted a community assessment using Harshman Middle School as the community. First, Harshman students presented typical scenes and experiences from their daily lives to staff from the Indiana University Adolescent Health Training Program and the Health of the Public advisory committee.

    Indiana University and Harshman students worked together to identify some of the Harshman students' concerns. The problem of "feeling safe at Harshman" emerged as the issue that students wanted to focus on.

    Students from both schools worked together to choose potential solutions to the problem, and Harshman students interviewed key personnel at the middle school to determine the feasibility of their solutions.

    Based on the interviews the students decided to address the problem through peer interventions and planned strategies for social change. The Harshman students who had been involved in the project presented their plans to the middle school's newly formed student council and wrote an article for the Harshman newsletter about their ideas. Some of the Harshman students also took part in the school's new peer mediation program.
  • During the spring 1997 semester, 14 Indiana University students worked on a joint project, providing medical and case management services to homeless individuals in Indianapolis. Students worked at Homeless Initiative Program's main office and in area shelters, missions, and agencies. Monthly seminars with Homeless Initiative Program staff introduced the students to all facets of services provided to people who are homeless.

    Students gained experience by becoming members of a street outreach or medical team, observing and participating in weekly case conferences, and conducting research that addressed information needs of staff, including helping to create an Indianapolis homelessness information clearinghouse, researching best practices for specific programming, and learning outcome-based evaluation techniques.
  • Project participants made several presentations at national meetings, and the project director wrote a chapter on the project for a book on community-campus partnerships.