Grant to heal W. Phila.

A health clinic in West Philadelphia staffed by Penn students from four schools has just gotten a shot in the arm from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The students collaborated on the funding proposal for the two-year, $35,000 student-written grant to expand the health outreach program at the First African Presbyterian Church at 42nd and Girard. The grant was one of four selected from 23 applications submitted to Kellogg's Interdisciplinary Community Health Fellowship program.

Interdisciplinary is the word for the project, which includes students and faculty oversight from the schools of medicine, dental medicine, nursing and social work. A student from MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine's public health program is also participating in the new grant.

"It's exciting to do this because it's involving all the other schools," said Siobhan Roddy, one of three social work students who worked on the grant. "You really get to see how each other works, and how social work students can help with a dental problem."

Until now, the clinic was doing basic screenings, like monitoring blood pressure. The clinic, open Monday evenings from 6 to 8, gets its clients largely through word of mouth, reaching beyond the church, said social work student Staci Oppelman, one member of the grant-writing team. In business since 1996, it offers immunization nights, community outreach health days, even free food to people in West Philadelphia.

"We just wanted to do a little more," said second-year medical student Brian Sydow, who organized the group who applied for the grant. "We wanted a dynamic project to boost what the clinic provided."

But what the little more will be, will be determined not necessarily by the grant writers but by the new crop of students now at the clinic. The specifics that the students are tossing around include preventive medicine efforts, like giving parenting classes for teens, helping people access mental health services, or teaching healthy lifestyles, but the final choices will be based on what their research shows the community needs.

Sydow, who began working at the clinic during his first year in medical school, has moved on to the hospital. "It's kind of our class's legacy to improve what's being done there."

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Originally published on March 18, 1999