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Story Medicine Changes Students, Professors and Patients

Story Medicine Impacts Students, Children and Families

Innovative community-based learning transforms hospital visits

Fifteen Drexel students stood in front of cameras.

Fifteen Drexel students stood in front of cameras, eager to entertain, in a studio at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. And this was their class.

Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences offers a suite of courses under the rubric of community-based learning (CBL). In CBL courses, students don’t just study the issues affecting the world — they work and learn alongside community members.

In Story Medicine, students produce and perform a half hour of original, live-broadcast programming for hospitalized children twice weekly, with only 30 minutes to prepare each show.

The topic for one particular day was “helping.” On camera, a Drexel student asked youngsters — who watch in the hospital studio, the lobby, and even from their beds: “Have any of you ever helped anybody?”

One little girl looked up from her coloring book in the studio and said to the camera: “I’m helping my brother right now. He needed a bone marrow transplant, so I gave him one.”

“I’ll never forget that beautiful moment and the learning experience it provided for our students,” says course instructor Nomi Eve, a novelist and assistant teaching professor in the Department of English and Philosophy.

CBL has a philanthropic legacy

The architect of CBL at Drexel is the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement, named in honor of the late Philip B. Lindy to recognize his $15 million gift in 2011. Subsequent supporters like Harry Hayman and Larry and Susan Goren, who created the Morton Goren Family Fund for Community-Based Learning, continue to invest in the Center. This helps ensure that their staff can help faculty across the University develop experiential learning courses with a focus on four interconnected concepts:

  • community-based learning
  • student civic leadership
  • community partnerships
  • volunteerism

“We know and understand the deep impact CBL has on students, community course participants, and CHOP’s Story Medicine patients,” the Gorens explain. “We have seen how it transforms [students], drawing them into collaboration and service.”

For that enjoyable hour, we forgot where we were and why we were there…And to have had such a positive experience like that, I believe, has transformed "hospital" from being a scary place where horrible things happen, to a place of healing and growth."  — Michelle Seitzer, parent of a CHOP participant

Broadening student comfort zones

Story Medicine, while touching on subjects ranging from acting and production to digital media, is essentially a writing course with two components: the in-class portion, where students work the teleprompter, perform on camera and help young patients in the studio with arts and crafts; and outside of class, where students collaborate on scripts, workshop their ideas, and reflect on the core principles of the course.

They learn to work collaboratively and improvise. They learn to deliver a product — their script and performance — to a real client on a demanding schedule.

And they do it all inside one of the busiest children’s hospitals in the US. Which means that often, they learn to go outside of their comfort zones.

“Every student has an interaction that changes them — an interaction with a child that forces them to confront difficult circumstances,” says Eve.

That has been especially true for Victoria Milano, a sophomore psychology major who plans to go to medical school.

“To be an undergrad and have the ability to brighten not only a child’s experience at CHOP, but also their family's, was eye-opening,” Milano says. “This course has allowed me a glimpse into my future, solidifying my desires to be a physician. What happens at CHOP really is magical.”

That magic happens for children and families as well.

* Notes: Photographs for this story were taken by Jeffrey Stockbridge, '05. This story is adapted from an article that originally appeared in ASK 2017, the magazine of Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences.

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