I started volunteering at The Luke Project 52 Clinic at the beginning of the Branches curriculum, during my 3rd year of medical school at the University of Michigan. One of my good friends and recent alum, Dr. Meghan Rowe, had chosen the clinic for her continuity site, so she would make the drive every other week for her last two years of medical school. Living in Detroit for a month-long rotation with the Detroit Public Health Department, I decided to join in one day and see if I could help out. I realized immediately how incredible this organization is. The Luke Clinic was founded to address the high rates of infant mortality and health disparities in Detroit and surrounding areas. They offer free prenatal, postpartum and infant care to any family in Detroit, and most patients are under- or un-insured. The cornerstone of Luke Clinic’s philosophy, which the clinic co-founders Brad and Sherie Garrison emphasize, is the relationships providers build with the families that visit. The clinic seeks to offer support and care for new parents at what can be an incredibly transformative and vulnerable period in someone’s life.
The clinic noted that, due to limited access to medical care, some children may go months to years without regular check-ups. When they do see health care providers, factors such as housing instability make it challenging for children to stay within the same health care system, and it can be hard for providers in different systems to closely monitor child growth and development. Pediatricians keep track of children’s growth and development, including meeting milestones such as having a social smile, learning to say some words, or sitting independently. When health care providers notice a child may be behind in one or more developmental milestones, early interventions can make a big impact to ensure that children grow to their full potential.
To address this need, Dr. Rowe started working on the Luke Clinic Baby Book for her capstone project. She talked with new parents and staff at the clinic to create the very first prototype – an illustrated book with space to keep track of basic health information such as height and weight, educational information for parents on developmental milestones, and plenty of space for pictures to make the book fun. After her graduation, since I loved visiting Luke Clinic so much, I continued this project as part of my Capstone for Impact (CFI) in the Branches. I have been able to bring my creative experiences from every step of my education into this project.
As a high school newspaper editor, I spent a lot of time working with Adobe InDesign and was thrilled to transfer the book into InDesign to create a visually appealing and beautiful workbook. As an engineering major in college, I took many classes with our school’s design department and utilized many of these design skills in development of this book. As a medical student applying into pediatrics, I have learned so much about child growth and development, and the common challenges new parents at the clinic face, incorporating this knowledge into the book using accessible and plain language. I’m thankful that CFI supports the opportunity to take creative risks. My process of developing the book included printing out Meghan’s first prototype, seeking user feedback by talking with new parents waiting in the Luke Clinic lobby, and meeting with nurses, doulas and physician staff at the clinic to identify needs. I then got the chance to create and illustrate the health education materials and re-organize the book for a second prototype.
Each member of the health care team offered important thoughts on how to make this book relevant and useful. New parents were excited to have space for baby pictures, to write down their questions and keep track of important phone numbers. They wanted information on how to feed their baby in their early days and when to call the doctor. Clinic staff and providers shared thoughts on how to present health education materials in a way that was accessible but not scary— for example, while the average child will pull up to stand by age one, it is not unusual for a one-year-old to still be learning this skill. I hope to translate this book into Spanish and Arabic for the clinic’s families, print it to be both durable and enjoyable to use, and distribute it to new families at the clinic. I would like to evaluate how families use the book in the future and would also very much love to share the digital file with anyone else who may be interested in this resource!
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Nithya is a 4th year medical student at the University of Michigan who is applying into Pediatrics. She is interested in healthy equity, and in her free time likes to practice yoga, attempt to help plants grow, knit, and spend time outdoors.