Editor’s Note: The following post is the third part of a series on “The Great Diseases Project: A Partnership Between Tufts Medical School and the Boston Public Schools,” in which AM Rounds asked a few of the projects’ participants to share their thoughts and impressions on the collaboration.
Berri Jacque, PhD (First author and research assistant professor, Great Diseases Project, and codirector, Center for Translational Science Education, Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts):
Education has always been a priority for me, and as a graduate student I always sought opportunities to teach. So when the Great Diseases project advertised for grad students and post docs to participate in developing the first module on Infectious Disease, I jumped at the opportunity. It became clear to me early on that the program fills a big unmet need in the science and health literacy field. Federal policy initiatives such as the Affordable Care act recognize that improving health literacy is crucial and apply two principal approaches – either refining the process of delivering information patients, or health education. Both approaches have focused on adults – but what about students – especially high school students who are essentially a captive audience? NIH has begun to prioritize interventions designed to improve health education at the high school level. But where can this important material fit into the already packed curriculum and who has the expertise to teach it? I think the clear answer is to bring health sciences to the biology classroom, and the only way to do this is through interdisciplinary partnerships with scientists, clinicians, and educators. Because of this I did a post-doc with the Great Diseases Program and am now focusing my own research on designing and implementing these kinds of health literacy interventions.