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Fellowship training

Stephanie Walters, M.D., a second-year fellow in the AHPRT program, is thrilled to train with other interdisciplinary fellows in a field that gives equal value to advocacy, teaching, clinical time, and research. Photo: Scott Streble

Having an impact

When Stephanie Walters, M.D., finished her family medicine residency in 2006, she knew she wanted to make a difference in the lives of adolescents but wondered how she could have a bigger impact.

Today she is exploring her options as a second-year fellow in the CDC-funded Adolescent Health Protection Research Training (AHPRT) program, headed by Linda H. Bearinger, Ph.D., FAAN, director of the Center for Adolescent Nursing in the School of Nursing. Through her AHPRT fellowship, housed in the School of Nursing, Walters participates with other pre- and postdoctoral health professionals in an interdisciplinary curriculum, the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) program, written by Bearinger and based in the Medical School’s Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine.

Funded by the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau, LEAH has provided clinical and leadership training in adolescent health for 30 years, tapping faculty from the School of Nursing, Medical School, and School of Public Health. The program serves professionals seeking adolescent specialty training in medicine, psychology, nutrition, nursing, and social work.

“Most health issues need to be addressed through an interdisciplinary approach, but it’s especially true for adolescent health,” Walters says. “The majority of the issues adolescents face are psychosocial, not strictly medical, so the perspectives of others have been invaluable to my learning.”

The LEAH curriculum, which lasts three years for medical fellows, is multifaceted and rigorous. In addition to spending time with patients in clinical encounters, fellows must earn a master’s degree in public health, complete one research project a year and submit a journal article on the research, give adolescent health lectures to residents and medical students, receive training in public speaking and media communications, and explore advocacy by learning about the legislative process and preparing testimony for a mock legislative hearing.

“The people we train are clinicians, but the purpose of LEAH is to help them have an impact at both the patient and the population levels,” says LEAH director Michael Resnick, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and public health and Gisela and E. Paul Konopka Chair in Adolescent health and Development. “We place fellows in academic institutions, in the public health sector, or in other systems where they will have a much greater influence on programs, policy, and practice than they would in more traditional practice settings.”

Walters hasn’t decided exactly what she will do when she completes her AHPRT fellowship, but she wants to stay connected with the University and continue teaching. “When I started medical school, I had no idea that I would find a field that valued advocacy, teaching, clinical time, and research in equal measure,” she says. “I am passionate about public policy and politics and sometimes have to pinch myself that I am getting paid to be a fellow and develop these skills.”

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