Saint Paul, MN

Minnesota Medical School student teaches of St. Paul Urban Tennis youth players about the importance of UV protection

Abdi Isaaq

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ST. PAUL, MN - Sun damage can raise the risk of developing skin cancer over time, thus it is critical to instill sun protection habits in children at a young age.

Madeline Ahern, a second-year University of Minnesota Medical School student, collaborated with peers from Twin Cities and Duluth campuses to teach 300 to 500 students about sun protection in collaboration with St. Paul Urban Tennis or SPUT.

Ahern and seven volunteers spent two weeks at SPUT's daytime youth courses, teaching kids aged five to thirteen about the consequences of the sun's UV rays. As a SPUT alumna, Ahern stated that one of the most significant aspects of this program was talking to children about going to medical school and being a doctor.

"It was spur of the moment this year because the summer program starts to roll pretty fast," Ahern said.

Ahern created the program with the assistance of SPUT and her student-run team, and it was so well-received that she plans to repeat it in the future.

While the core concepts of each lecture remained consistent, Ahern and her colleagues made a point of personalizing the courses to each age group, as she had learned during her summer medical education experience.

Instead of lecturing them, she highlighted the significance of asking open-ended questions and observing what they know and desire to discover. Her shadowing experience inspired her with a pediatric dermatologist who engages her young patients in candid discussions about sun safety and the importance of protecting their skin from harmful UV radiation.

"We're learning a lot about how to be an effective educator," Ahern commented. "And so, especially for young students, they like learning tools that can help them retain information. So, we used UV beads that change color in the sunlight as a teaching aid."

While these color-changing ultraviolet-sensitive beads were designed for younger audiences, their reception and accompanying materials were well-received across age groups due to their integration of learning and creation.

Ahern aims to continue the program the next year and expects to recruit more student volunteers to expand their reach among SPUT's more than 16 summer lesson venues. Every year, SPUT serves 2,700 children through tennis lessons, community participation, and another programming.

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