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Health Fair Thrives In Plainview

Mattlin hosts Hofstra medical students

With so many unhealthy options lurking behind grinning fast food mascots and couch potato-pleasing video games, it is essential that youngsters receive guidance from the next generation of medical professionals. 


Such was the thrust of a Health Education Fair at Mattlin Middle School in Plainview last week. Medical students from the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and librarians from the school’s Health Sciences Library joined

Plainview Hospital resident staff to bring healthy enlightenment and medical career exposure to the high school and elementary school level.


“We want to bring the medical field to the lay person in a way that is approachable and fun,” said Debra Rand, associate dean for library services at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, “This is not only about healthy information, but also to show just how many career opportunities there are in the health field.”


The Health Fair was part of a National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services and the National Library of Medicine award granted to the Medical School’s Health Sciences Library for consumer health resources education. The medical students represent various “student interest groups” at the medical school, which participate in extracurricular activities that reflect the students’ medical specialty interests. 


School of Medicine specialty groups set up tables in Mattlin’s gym, each one with fun activities and useful information for visitors. The specialty groups included wilderness safety, pediatrics, neurology, surgery, internal medicine, oncology and emergency medicine clubs. 


Visitors to the fair tried their hand at laparoscopic surgery techniques using a virtual game, while also bandaging up a terry bear at the free bear clinic. 


Kristen Welch, a second year medical student at Hofstra, has spent plenty of time visiting Long Island schools engaging youngsters in spirited talks on healthy living in everyday life. She said children are naturally inquisitive and are always searching for the ‘why.’


“Why’ questions are really exciting to hear because it shows how inquisitive kids are,” said Welch, who came to Hofstra from Cleveland, Ohio. “Things like first aid and knowing when to call 911; it is so important that this information sticks with them because it can actually save a life.”


Besides information to save lives, including their own, visitors also learned about careers. Joyce Thornton Barry, chairperson of Science, Research and Technology for the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District, said strong career path is another aspect of a healthy lifestyle.


“It is younger kids learning from what are essential older kids,” said Barry. “The younger generation sees these young doctors and they want to aspire to be like the friendly faces they met.”


Those local friendly faces included Amy Cooper from Jericho, a medical student on hand to help children understand the appropriated times to call 911. She said personal safety and the safety of others is a health issue all its own.


“It’s important for medical students to partner with the local community and get the word out about all aspects of health,” said Cooper, who was on hand with Michael Spigner of Manhasset. “Schools have science programs that focus on the basics, but we can go in depth and answer any detailed questions the students have.”


Victoria Grasso, a resident at Plainview Hospital also from Jericho, set up shop with Deborah Nunziato-Ghobashy, also from Plainview Hospital, at a free bear clinic – which is meant to ease doctor and emergency room visits in children.


“I’ve seen it many times in emergency rooms. Kids go in and they are terrified of physicians,” said Grasso. “We set this up for kids to treat their bear. Kids with a healthy idea of doctors grow into adults with a healthy idea of doctors.”


Also on hand at the health fair were Jenny Reisner, a Hofstra medical student from Garden City and Kaitlin Doyle from North Shore-LIJ.  Frieda Miller and Lauren Kaveski, Pharmacy residents at Plainview Hospital, were in attendance to help children distinguish the difference between candy and medicine, while Christine Fardellone of East Meadow from the Center for Tobacco Control looked to help smokers tamp out their habit.


Meanwhile, Plainview resident Judith Brenner, Assistant Dean for Curricular Integration at Hofstra brought her children, Jason and Danielle, to Mattlin to learn firsthand about health in daily life ¬– and also how to perform laparoscopic surgery.


"It’s really nice for kids to learn from medical students who really aren’t that much older,” she said. “This is very accessible to kids, as it should be. We need to generate interests among our young people to healthy living and medical careers.”