Partnership Now Includes Fellow Penn State/Whitehall High School Alumni Leading and Studying at the Medical School
On Thursday evening, Saquon Barkley, the Whitehall High School and Penn State alum and star running back of the New York Giants, visited the Temple/St. Luke’s Medical School to meet future physicians and review community outreach and engagement efforts through the school.
Eight Penn State alumni – including one Whitehall High School alum – currently studying to become physicians at the Temple/St. Luke’s Medical School, shared with Barkley information about the following student run organizations helping to improve lives for at-risk populations in the St. Luke’s service area:
- Student-Led Interprofessional Care Center (SLICC) – A care center led by medical students, housed at the Allentown Recovery Center, in which medical students, residents, and physicians collaborate to address healthcare inequities in the community, specifically targeting those with limited or no health care access. The center aims to improve the relationship between health care professionals and marginalized populations that have a high rate of mistrust in the medical community and to facilitate connections to primary care givers.
- Laundry on Linden – A volunteer opportunity for medical students in the St. Luke's medical van, assisting vulnerable members of our community that need access to free medical care and resources. Students also facilitate free laundry services while educating the community on Naloxone and its role in combating the opioid epidemic.
- Community Health and Education Programs (CHEP) – Outreach events through which participants host health fairs and educational programs with elementary, middle and high schools to address a variety of important and emerging health topics.
The focus on improving health in Allentown and surrounding communities complements the efforts of St. Luke’s and the Michael Ann & Saquon Barkley Hope Foundation, which announced an affiliation last year to address challenges faced by at-risk populations.
Among the Penn State alumni gathered Thursday was Dr. Shaden Eldakar-Hein, Senior Associate Dean of the Temple/St. Luke’s Medical School. Dr. Eldakar-Hein commented: “St. Luke’s and the Barkley Hope Foundation are kindred spirits because we share a similar mission. Both organizations are focused on improving lives of Lehigh Valley residents.” Adding the region’s first and only medical school to the affiliation is a natural extension, since, according to Dr. Eldakar-Hein, “By recruiting students with deep local ties and from across the nation, we are training doctors here in the Lehigh Valley to care for people of all backgrounds and economic status. And in this, St. Luke’s is helping the region to secure physicians who are connected and committed to our community.”
Barkley said, “I'm thrilled that the relationship between St. Luke's and the Michael Ann & Saquon Barkley Hope Foundation is now expanding to encompass the wonderful work being performed by the area's first and only medical school. I look forward to working with Dr. Eldakar-Hein, a fellow Penn State alumnus, as well as Dr. Akusoba and the 160 Temple/St. Luke's medical students, especially those from the Lehigh Valley and the Penn State graduates. As affiliates and teammates, we can advance our shared vision for developing projects that will positively impact our underserved communities.”
Dr. Ike Akusoba, Director of Community Engagement and Student Advocacy for Temple/St. Luke’s, added, “Learning to care for your community does not end in the classroom. Temple/St. Luke’s strongly encourages our students in their desire to participate in our community health initiatives in order to form impactful relationships and make a tangible difference.”
Among the Temple/St. Luke’s medical students who spoke to Barkley was second-year student Taj (Saran) Singh, a co-founder of and participant in the Student-Led Interprofessional Care Center (SLICC). “We're hoping to start building trust and improve the relationship between our underserved neighbors and healthcare professionals,” said Singh, who is from Allentown and graduated from Muhlenberg College. Singh commented that, “We see how many people need help accessing just the basics for living, and we want to offer those services at SLICC as an extension of other St. Luke’s Community Health projects.”
Temple/St. Luke’s School of Medicine second-year student Hannah Kahn, an Allentown native who graduated from Salisbury High School and herself a Penn State alum, told Barkley about her volunteer work for Laundry on Linden at the Family Wash Day laundromat in downtown Allentown. “Doing something for someone else builds your empathy and confidence and puts your privilege into perspective,” Kahn said. “Medicine is not just about bodily health, but also mental health and addressing other factors that impact people’s access to care and overall wellbeing.”