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Nuclear Med Students Gain Better Understanding of Arthritis via Unique Assignment

Question: What do writing skills, arthritis, a 5K race and nuclear medicine technology have in common? Answer: Old Dominion University.

For the past year and a half, ODU has been working to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) as part of the reaffirmation of accreditation process required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Following extensive research, ODU's QEP team found an area where both students and faculty agree there's room for improvement: writing skills. The university's QEP is called "Stretching the Human Mind: Learning Through Writing."

And here is where the arthritis, the 5K race and nuclear medicine technology come in. Scott Sechrist, director of ODU's nuclear medicine technology program, working with fellow members of the university QEP Committee, came up with an idea of how to incorporate the plan into one of his courses. "I wanted to form 'Team ODU-QEP' - a group of students who would write a paper on arthritis, then run in a race to benefit the Arthritis Foundation," he said (see photos below).

A runner himself, Sechrist thought the annual Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis on campus, sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Region Arthritis Foundation on Dec. 3, would provide a great opportunity to merge writing, running and community service into one QEP-related activity.

This year, Sechrist had his students exploring the basics of arthritis, including the types, the epidemiology and the diagnostic tests. But he also wanted them to learn about the impact arthritis has on those it afflicts. He assigned the students a short paper on arthritis and then entered Team ODU-QEP in the Jingle Bell Run/Walk.

"It seemed a perfect way to show how the QEP concept of learning through writing can be incorporated into a meaningful course assignment," he said.

Many of the students jumped at the chance to join Team ODU-QEP. What started out with 12 members and a modest goal of raising $300 eventually grew into a 38-member team that collected $1,785 in donations. Team ODU-QEP ultimately included not only his students, but also faculty, family members and friends from medical technology, biochemistry, dental hygiene, nursing and the College of Arts and Letters, as well as members of the QEP Steering Committee.

According to Sechrist, the members of the committee, which is co-chaired by Mona Danner, director of ODU's doctoral program in sociology and criminal justice, and Worth Pickering, assistant vice president for institutional research and assessment, were enthusiastic supporters of Team ODU-QEP. "They were great. They supported us with T-shirts, donations and by becoming members of Team ODU-QEP themselves."

The human face of arthritis came on the day of the event in the form of Erica Watson, a 13-year-old who was diagnosed with arthritis at age 9. Watson shared her story with the assembled runners and participants at the conclusion of the Jingle Bell Run/Walk.

The lesson of compassion was not lost on Sechrist's students, particularly one with a family member suffering from arthritis. In her paper, the student wrote: "Statistics always become more real when they are put with a face. I have studied the face of arthritis for many years, but only now am I learning the statistics. What I wish that everyone knew: arthritis is always more than just what you can see, but it is never more important than who you are looking at."

This article was posted on: January 3, 2012

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