CHAMPIONS learn how to ‘pay it forward’

WorldPoint’s Garret Bergstrom applies a tourniquet to Giovanni Giles, a senior at Roberto Clemente Community Academy.

“If anyone gets woozy at the sight of blood, please be sure you are seated when watching this video,” says Garret Bergstrom, who is at the front of a room of 29 students from nine area high schools participating in UIC’s CHAMPIONS program. Bergstrom is medical education manager with WorldPoint, a company that distributes training materials for the American Heart Association. He is teaching a course on basic bleeding control.

Ruth Lopez and Basma Zahid, who will be juniors this fall at Nicholas Senn High School, practice applying the tourniquets on one another.

The program, which stands for Community Health And eMPowerment through Integration Of Neighborhood-specific Strategies using a Novel Education & Technology-leveraged Workforce, is in its third year and run by UIC’s department of emergency medicine. It aims to build a pipeline of students interested in health care careers. During the summer, students come to the UIC campus four days a week to participate in hands-on activities and attend lectures and classes on clinical skills and community health. During the school year, students are expected to continue to work with their local communities at health fairs and events. Students are selected from nine low-income Chicago high schools through an application process.

“There is a strong component of the program that prepares students to participate in community health-based activities, such as health screenings,” says Natalia Suarez, the CHAMPIONS program manager. Students also select three “clients” at the beginning of the summer to teach some of the skills they have learned in order to “pay it forward.”

“Part of the focus is to increase bystander preparedness in saving lives, whether it’s someone having a heart attack on the street, or someone getting cut in the kitchen,” Suarez said.

Just before Bergstrom began his presentation, the students were learning the basics of suturing and practicing on bananas. Now, they are learning how to use tourniquets and pack bleeding wounds. Earlier this summer, all the students received CPR certification through Illinois Heart Rescue, visited the cadaver lab, and shadowed doctors and nurses in the emergency and pediatric departments, among other activities.

“It’s a combination of classes, skills building, community outreach and college preparation,” Suarez said.

Bergstrom demonstrates how to use a windlass tourniquet on Giovanni Giles, a senior at Roberto Clemente Community Academy. He’s thinking about becoming a registered nurse or physical therapist.

“I didn’t know how to suture two weeks ago,” he said. “I also didn’t know how important the pancreas is.” Giles and his fellow students learned about the pancreas during an anatomy class where they got to see the organs up close in a human cadaver lab.

Ruth Lopez and Basma Zahid, juniors at Nicholas Senn High School, are practicing applying the tourniquets on one another. Lopez said she is interested in pediatrics, specifically in neonatology, and Zahid is interested in psychology or emergency medicine. They are eager to teach their “clients” — friends of parents — what they learned today.

The CHAMPIONS program is funded by the Michael Reese Health Trust, the UIC Urban Health Program and the UIC College of Medicine department of emergency medicine, the Baxter International Foundation, the Chicago Learning Exchange, Chicago GEAR UP, and Chicago Public Schools.

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