A decade ago, undergraduate nursing students at Case Western Reserve University began a program that has since provided health screenings and tips on healthier living to thousands of Cleveland public school students.

This week, the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing will receive an Innovations in Baccalaureate Population Health Curriculum Award from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) to acknowledge the program’s impact on so many children.

Mary Terhaar

Mary Terhaar, the Arline H. and Curtis F. Garvin Professor of Nursing and associate dean of academic affairs at the School of Nursing

“This program confronts real issues and helps people in need while making our nursing students better citizens, clinicians, team players and teachers,” said Mary Terhaar, the Arline H. and Curtis F. Garvin Professor of Nursing and associate dean of academic affairs at the School of Nursing. “It’s an honor to receive this national recognition.”

Representatives from the nursing school will accept the award at the AACN’s annual conference in Anaheim, California, today (Nov. 18).

First-year nursing students—taught and led by their sophomore peers—gather basic health data used in clinical decision-making such as weights, blood pressures and vision screening for most of the students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD).

With many of the CMSD students living in disadvantaged neighborhoods, data show they are at higher risk for hypertension, obesity, substance abuse and exposure to violence.

“With many of these schoolchildren lacking access to health care,” Terhaar said, “our nursing students help identify the kind of health problems that are often missed if you haven’t received regular check-ups.”

Third-year nursing students are joined by first-year students from the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, whom they guide through the CMSD health screenings. This experience is one of the first inter-professional team efforts for both students of both disciplines.

Fourth-year nursing students complete 300 hours of immersion in the community and design projects that tackle systemic health issues in low-income communities.

Mary Kerr, dean of the School of Nursing, and Amy Bieda, assistant professor and director of its bachelor of science in nursing program, will accompany Terhaar to accept the award.

Administrators of the program include Deb Aloshen, CMSD’s director of health and nursing services; Marilyn Lotas, associate professor at the nursing school; and Shannon Wong, an instructor at the School of Nursing.

“Community service, and inter-professional collaboration are hallmarks of high quality higher education for the health professions,” said Terhaar. “The faculty and students of the nursing school are making significant progress in these two important arenas.”