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What’s Up Doc?

December 11th, 2010 - By Therese Madden

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Visit with Temple University Medical students who buddy-up with local teenagers to experience a healthier lifestyle.


Every Wednesday after school, a group of teenagers gather at Temple University School of Medicine in North Philadelphia. They learn martial arts, play Wii Fit, and eat healthy snacks, they also get weighed. This program is all about helping teens lose weight in a supportive environment. Each teen is paired with a medical student who becomes their mentor. The program was started by Eric Shaff, an Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at Temple. He says, “we’re having a significant problem with obesity in teenagers, and in our practice around Temple we see probably about 20% of the teenagers are significantly overweight.”

He does what he can to help change that, but he knows one person can only do so much. This is where the med students come in, Shaff says, “medical students have an interest of getting more involved with patient care, especially in the first two years when it’s mostly classroom situations. They were eager to get involved. They could relate a lot better I think to the teenagers, because they were not that much older, and there’s a lot more medical students than there are of me.”

Dr. Shaff recruits the teens from his practice. 17-year-old Isaiah Sutton is one of the participants, “when I first came I had to see Doctor Shaff for an appointment, and he told me about the program. He said then I should come, and he said if I didn’t come he was going to stalk me down,” Sutton says.

Isaiah has been coming to the program for 2 years and has lost 20 pounds so far. He gives a lot of the credit to the med students, “it was the mentors, the stuff they taught me, and my mentor. Brandon, he motivated me to not eat certain stuff, which made me look at the foods I was eating, look at the calories and everything, how much sugar it’s got in there and everything, so I was like ‘okay, cool!'”

For the mentors it’s been pretty cool, too. Here’s Brandon, he’s 24-years-old and in his 2nd year of med school, “I think because we’re here with them on a one-on-one basis, and we can be completely honest with them with how we struggled with weight or how we see others struggle with weight, and I think because of that honesty we are really able to connect with them.”

And this honesty has been a help to Isaiah, he says, “I don’t really talk about my weight and stuff, because I find it real personal, but when I come here I tend to open up more than I really was, which, it helped me a lot.” What Isaiah, and the other teens may or may not realize is that they too are helping the future doctors. Med student, Brandon Chatani again, “that’s really important to me as a medical student because that’s what doctoring is, it’s like the actual practice of being a doctor is interacting with people and getting them to kind of realize and work with you on how to make themselves healthier.”

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