The Medical School partners with Central Falls Schools to spark student interest in health careers.
Students in Central Falls, RI, are about to learn more about how good health impacts every aspect of life—and how they might someday join the medical professionals who provide care to improve the health and lives of others.
As students in the city’s Calcutt Middle School return for the 2022-2023 academic year in August, the school will be home to a SMART Health and Wellness Clinic thanks to the generosity of the Warren Alpert Foundation. It will also serve as the inaugural site for SMART Plus—a professional pathways initiative led by The Warren Alpert Medical School designed to spark student interest in health and medicine careers.
In sum, health professionals and medical school students will join forces to care for student patients in the school’s embedded SMART Clinic and to provide inspiration, mentorship, and health education in classrooms.
Joseph Diaz MD’96 RES’99 F’01 MPH’09, associate dean for diversity and multicultural affairs, says the medical education component is particularly important given Central Falls’ federal designation as having a shortage of health professionals in relation to the population.
“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to introduce Central Falls students to a variety of careers in health care and to increase their sense of possibility in terms of what types of professional futures are available to them,” Diaz says. “This opportunity provides students access to ongoing mentorship and conversations about health and health care careers.”
Diaz noted that the Medical School is the first to partner with a SMART Clinic, and the project can serve as a model for medical schools and communities throughout the country. Pathways programs like the one the Medical School will lead can be effective in low-income communities, where students may have limited access to resources that position them to pursue success in fields like medicine.
The launch of the SMART Clinic comes as the result of a partnership between Central Falls Schools, the Ginn Group Collaborative, and the Rhode Island Department of Education with funding from the Warren Alpert Foundation and support from The Warren Alpert Medical School. The new clinic will join established SMART Clinics at Mt. Pleasant High School and Roger Williams Middle School in Providence, with a third opening at Providence’s George J. West Elementary School next fall.
SMART clinicians work to proactively identify and address the physical, behavioral, social, and emotional risks to classroom success, then design and deliver needed interventions through on-site, real-time health services. The clinics treat all students—without regard to insurance or immigration status—and they never charge students any out-of-pocket fees.
“The pandemic has made it clear to all how health care gaps hurt students and families in Central Falls every day—that is why we are so excited to welcome the SMART team to our community,” Central Falls School District Superintendent Stephanie Downey Toledo says. “Our bold, new strategic plan is tailor-made for this approach to providing focused health and academic support. Our students, families, and school community will benefit from this SMART Clinic for years to come.”