The American Psychiatric Foundation awarded two Boonshoft School of Medicine students with a Helping Hands grant for Project Parenthood, a program designed to provide parenting skills to young adult parents at Daybreak, an emergency shelter for runaway and homeless youth.
Jasmin Scott, a third-year medical student, and Ashleigh Welko, a fourth-year medical student, designed the program to promote confidence in the parenting abilities of the young parents and to foster positive parent-parent and parent-child relationships that will allow them to break the cycle of abuse and grow into psychologically healthy adults. Scott and Welko are in the medical school’s Physician Leadership Development Program, a dual-degree program through which they can obtain a master’s degree in public health while pursuing their medical degree over five years.
“We know through research that early life trauma and stresses predispose adults and children to psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” said Scott, who wants to work in maternal and child health with the underserved. “Such a program may help teens in managing stress and decrease the likelihood of introducing their own children to adverse childhood experiences.”
During the program, which will begin in October at Daybreak, Scott and Welko will provide education, social support and emotional coping skills to help young adults better handle the challenges of parenting. They will educate young adult parents and expectant parents on the developmental milestones of early childhood, the importance of parent-child bonding and appropriate discipline for young children. They also will encourage the prevention of teenage parenthood by promoting safe sexual practices. The program is a series of 12 workshops. They will offer three separate series.
“The adolescents at Daybreak have been through a disproportionate number of adverse experiences and may not have ever seen a secure relationship,” said Welko, who wants to become a pediatrician. “We will be working to provide education about building healthy relationships with their children and romantic partners. The hope is that our intervention will introduce these young adults to skills that will benefit them and their loved ones in the future.”
Brenda Roman, M.D., assistant dean for curriculum development and professor and director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry at the Boonshoft School of Medicine, explained that the Helping Hands grant program was established to encourage medical students to participate in community service activities, particularly those focused on underserved populations; raise awareness of mental illness and the importance of recognition of illness; and build an interest among medical students in psychiatry and working in underserved communities.
“I have had students apply for this grant in previous years, but this is the first time Boonshoft School of Medicine students have been selected,” Roman said. “Typically, only about three schools across the nation receive awards. It is competitive.”
Sabrina Neeley, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Boonshoft School of Medicine Physician Leadership Development Program and assistant professor in the school’s Center for Global Health, said Welko and Scott are both excellent examples of the principles that are emphasized in the Physician Leadership Development Program.
“They are learning to lead by doing. They identified a need in the community, developed an idea of how to address that need and then went into action,” Neeley said. “Their broad perspectives and understanding of the various factors that contribute to an individual’s health and well-being are played out in this grant. Their goal is to improve the parenting skills and lives of the Daybreak residents, and therefore, improve the lives of the residents’ children.”