News Release

May 31, 2005

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Youth Health Service Corps Wins National Award

UConn School of Medicine and Department of Public Health Share Honor

FARMINGTON, CONN. – The Connecticut Youth Health Service Corps, designed to recruit high school students into health care careers, is the first-place winner of the 2005 Linkage Award presented annually by the Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes exemplary community-based collaborative activities between public health agencies and academic institutions.

“Connecticut AHEC and the Department of Public Health are working together to help students recognize and avoid the pitfalls that can prevent them from reaching their full potential,” said corps program co-founder Bruce Gould, M.D., associate dean for primary care and program director of the Connecticut Area Health Education Center at the UConn School of Medicine. “We are also addressing the problem of workforce shortages and the under-representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the health care professions.”

Martha Okafor, chief of the Family Health Section, Branch of Public Health Initiative, and program co-founder, said the youth corps was also part of an innovative strategy that addresses teen pregnancy through skills building and career development. “Students learn about public health, personal health, and community service,” she said. “They are exposed to meaningful ways of spending their time, and they learn about new opportunities available to them in the workforce.”

Currently, more than 20 high schools and 60 volunteer sites are participating in the program throughout Connecticut. The schools are in urban, suburban and rural locations, and the students volunteer at community health centers, dental clinics, homeless shelters, and long-term care facilities. Training for the health corps involves a nine-part curriculum, including courses in infection control methods, confidentiality and privacy rules, disease prevention, cultural competency, homeless awareness and CPR. As of March 2005, 116 students have been trained as volunteers, almost doubling the first-year goal in the first six months of the program.

"The ability to start and quickly grow the program was possible because of our regional presence and reputation of working with youth interested in pursing a career in health care,” said Tricia Harrity, Northwester Connecticut AHEC executive director and statewide health careers manager.

A newly constructed database will monitor the number of corps’ students who choose a career in a health related field. “Within two to four years, the database will tell us the number of corps’ students entering health professions compared to their non-corps peers,” said Dr. Gould. “This award shows support and recognition for our efforts and our program, and, most importantly, for the work of our health service corps volunteers.”

“The corps is an effective way of providing many young people with a future and hope,” said Ms. Okafor. “We want them to know they have choices.”
The corps is implemented through the state’s AHEC program centers in Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport, and Norwich. Other collaborators in the project include the Connecticut Primary Care Association and the National Health Service Corps.

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

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