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Two Upstate medical students chosen as national leadership scholars

Two Upstate medical students chosen as national leadership scholars

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Upstate Medical University fourth-year medical students Andy Beltran and Elizabeth Zane were unaware they had both applied for the same student leadership program in Washington, D.C.-until they both found out they were accepted.

Beltran and Zane joined 40 other students selected for the highly competitive Paul Ambrose Scholars Program Student Leadership Symposium this summer.

They were picked from applicants from more than 80 health professions schools across the country, and spent three days with other medical, physician assistant, dental, pharmacy, public health and graduate nursing students.

The Ambrose scholars submitted project proposals with an eye toward federal Healthy People 2020 goals. The initiative is designed to improve the health and lives of Americans of all ages and all groups.

Zane’s “Spring Sprouts” proposal brings nutrition education and gardening skills to a Syracuse elementary school. Beltran’s “Breaking the Silence” proposal aims to educate children in grades 4-12 about mental health and decrease suicide rates among youth.

Beltran thought about going into orthopedic surgery as a specialty, but chose psychiatry after becoming aware of the prevalence of children and young people with mental health issues, especially in Central New York.

“Adolescence is the time of onset of many mental health disorders and we see many youths who are not seeking help because of the stigma surrounding mental illness,” Beltran said. “It’s also difficult for the parents to find support when mental illness is not something that can be easily talked about.”

With his project, he hopes to have at least one educator in 10 different schools in Onondaga County incorporate “Breaking the Silence” lesson plans into the curriculum. He hopes educating students about mental illness will help them see the warning signs in themselves and others, and allow those in need to feel comfortable seeking help.

Zane settled on her nutrition project after volunteering at a Syracuse elementary school with other Upstate medical students in the Reading Buddies program. She saw a lot of unhealthy food choices among third- and fourth-graders. Government statistics show more than a third of Americans are obese.

Her “Spring Sprouts” program will feature a vegetable garden at Dr. Martin Luther King School, and include lessons on agriculture, nutrition and food preparation. The project will culminate next spring with a meal featuring homegrown produce, with the children’s families invited.

Zane’s project and Beltran’s project reflect the big-picture nature of public health.

“In medicine, there are so many systemic problems we’re fighting,” Zane said. “The whole challenge of public health is to treat the community, not just one patient.”

The Ambrose program is highly competitive, said Donna Bacchi, M.D., MPH, chair of Upstate’s Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. “I am proud to have two Upstate students and their projects accepted, and I look forward to having them share their results,” she said.

The leadership program is named for Paul Ambrose, M.D., M.P.H., who was killed on American Airlines flight 77 Sept. 11, 2001. Ambrose was a senior clinical advisor in the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, and was working with the U.S. Surgeon General on a Call to Action on overweight and obesity.

Caption: Elizabeth Zane and Andy Beltran were selected as Paul Ambrose Leadership Scholars and took part in a three-day conference in Washington, D.C., over the summer.