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Valerie Benedict ’18 at Northshore University Health System in Chicago, IL

At the beginning of this co-op, I embarked on a journey into a foreign world. I had next to no experience with allopathic medicine and all of my experience in health care was from my practice of bodywork therapies (more specifically, craniosacral therapy). Previously, I had only experienced healthcare from a holistic perspective and was nervous about working within a system that I was unfamiliar with. I am working in a large system of hospitals known as Northshore University Health System in the Chicago metropolitan area. 

Within this larger healthcare system, I am assisting a team of researchers, including a cardiologist and a pediatrician. They are working to analyze an educational program that aims at increasing nutritional literacy about sugar-sweetened beverages among children. This is in response to the rising concern among healthcare professionals over the growing prevalence of childhood obesity. I am incredibly excited to be a part of this effort because it has allowed me to combine my passion for nutrition as well as my increasing certainty that I want to work heavily in the field of preventative care.

So far I have been working to organize the data taken from 15 schools to see what the effects of viewing a simple education program called The Sugar Show have been on children’s consumption habits. The Sugar Show is a lot what it sounds like—it shows children exactly how much sugar is in popular beverages by presenting them with the amount in table sugar and in pieces of candy. For instance, in a 20-ounce can of Mountain Dew, there are 77 grams of sugar. This would be represented by weighing out 77 grams of sugar and placing it in a plastic bag, as well as showing the equivalent amount of candy. For a similar visualization technique put together by the New York City Health Department, see https://youtu.be/4Cml9Y_SHrM.

The effect of The Sugar Show on children’s habits is a powerful example of how physicians cooperating with the communities they work in can help influence a culture towards healthier ways of living. The educational content in The Sugar Show was prepared by pediatricians, cardiologists, teachers, and even students. So, though I am working at a desk and staring at a computer screen for most of my day and playing a small role in organizing the data collected, I am continually inspired by the simplicity of this project as well as the crucial effects on public health it has had by combating childhood obesity. Gone are the nerves I had about interacting with the world of allopathic medicine. My co-workers inspire and inform the path that I hope to walk as a future physician in being a force in the communities I work in to create an environment that empowers people to be able to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

Photo credit: https://www.northshore.org/ 

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Valerie Benedict is currently pursuing a bachelor's of science at Antioch college and is majoring in Biomedical science. She is certified in Craniosacral therapy as well a Reiki. In addition, she has worked in a wide variety of health care settings, from naturopathic offices to large hospitals. After the completion of her BS, she hopes to use her experience to pursue a career in holistic medicine.

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