Cooper Medical School of Rowan Univerisity
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CMSRU Students Promote Literacy to Camden Youth

CCMSRU Students Promote Literacy to Camden Youth

Learning to read is fundamental to the success of a child – both in school and in life. Studies have shown that literacy begins at home, with access to a variety of age appropriate books and loving support from family members. But in economically disadvantaged communities like Camden, NJ, the average child owns less than two books – a fact that likely contributes to poor academic performance and low graduation rates.

This past year, the Pediatric Interest Group at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) – a consortium of medical students interested in pursuing careers in the field of pediatrics – helped address this important social and public health issue among second graders at U.S. Wiggins College Preparatory Lab Family School, a public elementary school located less than one mile from the medical school in Camden.

"We feel that improving literacy skills among Camden school children will have a far reaching and long lasting impact on their health and well-being," explained Holly Caten, a second year student at CMSRU and head of the Pediatric Interest Group. "So we decided to help improve access to books by collecting and providing a package of age appropriate books for each child in the 2nd grade at Wiggins Elementary School to take home with them."

The book drive, held in memory of Anne Smedinghoff, a U.S. diplomat who was killed while promoting literacy and delivering books to a school in southern Afghanistan, was promoted among the medical students, faculty and staff at CMSRU with the theme "Today a Reader; Tomorrow a Leader."

According to Caten, the response was overwhelming. "We received so many book donations that we were able to give each child half a dozen books to start their personal collections," she explained. The books were organized by genre and distributed to the 2nd graders in early spring.

The Pediatric Interest Group is one of dozens of student interest groups at CMSRU. Organized and managed by the students, these groups provide opportunities, resources, and support necessary to explore and expand personal and professional interests, build relationships, and develop skills. Students can connect with faculty, community physicians, residents, and senior medical students to learn more about career options, research and educational opportunities, shadowing opportunities, and even residency application tips. In addition, student interest groups can serve as a platform for the development of meaningful community service projects in the City of Camden.

CMSRU opened in summer 2012. It is the first new medical school in New Jersey in over 35 years and the only four-year MD-granting medical school in South Jersey. Rowan University and The Cooper Health System partnered in June 2009 to establish CMSRU. Located in Camden, NJ, CMSRU will help address the physician shortage locally and nationally, and improve healthcare throughout the region. CMSRU received preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) in June 2011.