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UA medical students in Phoenix teach lifesaving lesson

Free lesson offered to Phoenix residents by service program

 About 30 people who work in downtown Phoenix recently received a lesson on saving someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest. Their teacher was young - 23-year-old Jeff Tully, a second-year medical student at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in downtown.
 
With the assistance of a UA education program coordinator, Carol Gibbs, Tully gave this lifesaving lesson for free because it is one of several services offered by students who volunteer in a special, UA community service program that has existed since the late 1970s.
 
The Commitment to Underserved People program is not required, but most UA students sign up for it anyway. It lets students obtain hands-on experience in community medicine.
 
The program's mission has been to provide medical care and medical education to the poor and disadvantaged minorities and communities.
 
"The CUP program is an extracurricular activity for students," said Tara Cunningham, UA executive director of admissions and recruitment. "It's a way . . . for the students to give back to the community. They're fine-tuning what they learn in the classroom."
 
The UA director of CUP, Dr. Roberta Matern, said students in the program also attend many health fairs to give free vaccinations.
 
Matern said UA has some partnerships with health clinics and social-service groups in Phoenix, such as the Wesley Community Center in the Nuestro Barrio neighborhood next to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
 
At that clinic, first- and second-year medical students practice what they learned in the classroom by working with real patients, most of them residents in the low-income, mostly-Latino neighborhood. Students are supervised by doctors at the clinic.
 
But UA also allows students to develop their own programs to help the community at large.
 
This is why Tully and his classmate, Christian Dameff, came up with a plan to teach the new and preferred method of rescue for cardiac arrest, "chest compression-only CPR." With that technique, a citizen or paramedic responding to a cardiac-arrest victim presses on the person's chest repeatedly, with hands together and arms straightened, to circulate blood through the victim's heart, bloodstream and brain.
 
Tully said Dameff had worked with doctors at UA Sarver Heart Center whose studies, published in peer-reviewed medical journals, proved that compressions without breaths were a more successful method of saving someone who had suffered cardiac arrest - a condition in which the heart simply stops beating, leaving the person unconscious.
 
At first "we thought we would start something with the Water Safety Week at the YMCA," said Tully, of Phoenix.

And after that, they began to teach various community groups, including downtown professionals.
 
"We've taught it about 12 times this year," Tully said.
 
One of his classmates, Cari Breslauer, also is an enthusiastic supporter and participant in the volunteer program. Under it, she has worked as a mentor for six students interested in medicine who are at the Phoenix Union Bioscience High School, close to UA College of Medicine-Phoenix near Fillmore and Seventh streets.
 
Breslauer also has worked for the Wesley Community Center clinic, and said the experience gives her an advantage over students who aren't in the volunteer program.
 
"I've been able to exponentially increase my clinical opportunities in my first year of medical school," said Breslauer. "We learn how to do basic injections."
 
Breslauer also has worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic, where she has given health checkups to dozens of women, including Pap smears to check for cancerous cells in the cervix.
 
Matern said she believes the volunteer program is inspiring for medical students.
 
"By getting involved in service learning, they get to keep that desire to help, and they won't lose that innate desire," Matern said. "And that way, (medical school) is not just all books."

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