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University of Queensland Students Promote Wellness & Help Build a Home

(April 10, 2012) In March, the members of the Ochsner Medical Student Association (OMSA) organized two outreach projects in the New Orleans community. OMSA was created in 2011 by Ochsner’s contingent of medical students from The University of Queensland in Australia.


On March 10, a team of Ochsner medical students volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to build a home in New Orleans. Mel Lam and Jessie Sushinsky worked on constructing the banister for the porch while Dan Henbest, Dave Pinckney, Katie Weyer, and Steve Sushinsky shingled the roof. For some students, using power tools for the first time was a real learning experience. Steve, Katie, Jessie, and Mel were particularly interested in the opportunity because they live a mere 4 blocks away from the new Habitat home. “I think knowing that the house we were working on was near where I was living was pretty special,” said Mel. “It was a great way to help out in the community and get to know my neighborhood a little bit better.” OMSA members are planning many future volunteer days with Habitat for Humanity and encourage anyone who is interested—students, faculty, staff, family, and friends—to join them!


On March 28th and 29th, another OMSA team participated in Wellness Week at Bonnabel High School. OMSA members set up and staffed a booth in the high school courtyard during the lunch hour to speak with students about topics ranging from diet and exercise to substance abuse and sexual health.


Many high school students stopped to examine a set of actual human lungs, giving Jennifer Lee and Dara Mitchell the opportunity to start discussions about the consequences of smoking.


Jose Feliberti, Jonathan Lu, and Ron Chong-Yik used models to compare the sugar contents of foods—such as chicken nuggets versus grilled chicken breast and french fries versus baked potato—as a starting point for explaining the pathogenesis of diabetes. Jose said, “The kids were keen to learn about nutrition and interested in the evolution of disease with unhealthy eating practices.”


Asia Downing and Marilyn Marshall handed out fliers that explained the dangers of sexting and drew students to the OMSA booth with vivid pictures of sexually transmitted infections of the eyes and throat. Kathryn Vreeland handed out pedometers to students jumping double dutch to see how many steps they could reach before getting caught in the rope and demonstrated how fun exercises can meet daily activity goals.


Dan Henbest enjoyed both teaching and learning. “I had no idea what to expect,” he said, “but I was really pleased with how well we were received by the students and how much they already seemed to know about things like lung disease.”


OMSA members plan to participate in Bonnabel’s Wellness Week annually and also hope to continue their relationship with the high school students by starting a monthly Wellness Club this fall.

Build a home

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