Physician Assistant Students Collaborate with Paper Mill Elementary School on Wellness Education

Dec 20, 2023
Two students in white lab coats present to the kids at Paper Elementary School in Westfield. The students and two children sit at a wooden desk and play with ice-cube trays as part of a dental hygiene demonstration.

Physician assistant majors explaining dental hygiene, as part of an all-day presentation at Paper Mill Elementary School.

Earlier this December, several physician assistant students gave presentations to students at Paper Mill Elementary on topics including hygiene, stress relief, nutrition, cardiovascular health, and mental health.

Westfield State Alumnus Shane Hogan ’12, a physical education and health teacher at Paper Mill Elementary helped arrange the event.

“I am incredibly proud of our PA students for planning age-appropriate educational activities covering a variety of topics,” Dr. Susan McDiarmid, Director of Clinical Education and Assistant Director of the Physician Assistant Program, said. “Student feedback was incredibly positive as this community event allowed them the opportunity to practice their pediatric patient education skills before they enter their clinical rotations in January.”

Physician assistant majors from WSU play with kids from Paper Mill Elementary School. One student in a white lab-coat uses foam noodles to simulate an obstacle course while a kid tries to jump over it.
The germ station's obstacle course.

Edward Krajkowski, a physician assistant major, commented on the event, describing it as “an awesome opportunity” as well as “a chance to educate the community.”

As a participant, Krajkowski, along with several other classmates, presented on topics such as germs and the importance of washing your hands. “My colleagues and I prepared presentations and activities for the children that covered topics like handwashing, germs, healthy eating, and exercise,” he said. “My group presented how easily germs spread, and the importance of handwashing. We used multiple colors of glitter to simulate germs and ran relay races to see how fast germs spread with hand contact. We presented to multiple age groups at the school, and I was surprised at how much I had to adjust the activity and explanations to keep them engaged.”

Three physician assistant majors from WSU in white lab-coats sit in a circle with children from the Paper Mill Elementary School in Westfield as part of an all-day presentation, where the PA students teach kids about germs and wellness.
The dance and wellness station.

Krajkowski also expressed how the event has helped to shape his own perception, as he and his peers approached the event with a sense of autonomy and authority. “When we began the event, we were introduced as future providers and health care experts,” he added. “As a student, it was humbling to realize that over the course of my education, I now have gained the expertise to speak with authority on medical issues. It was an amazing reminder of the responsibility that comes with becoming a physician assistant, especially as we are preparing for our clinical rotations and treating patients.”

Victoria Ferrara-Lawlor, another physician assistant student, agreed with Krajkowski in that the experience helped to highlight real world scenarios they will face in their careers, such as improvisation and readjusting when necessary. “As future healthcare providers, a great portion of our job is to educate the patients we see each day, whether they be four or 94 years old. The event reminded me and my group members to constantly adjust our teaching to our audience’s education and comprehension level. I plan to take the lessons learned from this event into my future practice as a physician assistant. Now, I feel more confident in my teaching, especially at the pediatric level.”

Physician assistant majors from WSU use pallets to show kids from Paper Mill Elementary School what reflexes are.
The reflex station.

A third classmate, Corina Lindsay, reiterated the importance of gaining confidence in their own skills. Her group presented on reflexes and tested the patella reflexes of the younger students as an engaging and interactive example of the subject matter. “I felt like I learned a lot about myself and how I want to communicate and provide good patient care in the pediatric population,” she said. “My favorite part about the experience was just being able to interact with the elementary students and do some fun educational activities with them. It was such a fun day, and I know we would all love to continue to be involved in the community with events like this.”