Two years ago, Dr. Janet Lee realized she had a problem.
As an adolescent medicine specialist at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center’s school-based health clinics, she provides completely free, confidential health services to students. But at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, only a small percentage of the students were using the health center.
In response, she and Grisselle Defrank, a health educator, decided to enlist students to incorporate the clinic into the school community. At first, they didn’t think anyone would apply. But they got over 150 applicants, and the Student Ambassador program was born.
The ambassadors transformed wordy signs into relatable, teen-friendly flyers and began adding announcements to Pupil Path, the school website.
They also organized the first annual dodgeball tournament.
“We originally wanted to have a health fair or something. The ambassadors said no way, and came up with the idea of a dodgeball tournament,” Dr. Lee explained. “It was a huge success. The tournament gives me an opportunity to talk to teachers about student health needs and what we do, and everyone has a lot of fun.”
As a result of the ambassadors’ efforts, the percent of health center visits increased by over 32 percent.
Last week, we sat down with Dr. Lee and this year’s student ambassadors, Fiza Qazi and Tenzin Yintsel, to talk about what they’re up to this year.
How did you get involved as student ambassadors?
Tenzin Yintsel: I’m a Freshman. I was new, and didn’t have anything going on. I checked Pupil Path, saw a link to the program and applied. When I came here I didn’t know what field I wanted to go into. It was a good opportunity to explore school programming.
Fiza Qazi: I also saw the message on Pupil Path and thought, “OMG, so cool!” I’ve always been infatuated with this health center. I wanted to raise awareness about things that don’t get talked about as much, like STIs [sexually transmitted infections].
What have you done to raise awareness about STIs?
TY: We made flyers for STI testing and pregnancy testing. All of the services are confidential here—we just wanted the school to know that. It’s not really discussed in classes, so it’s important to talk about it.
What are some things you’ve done as student ambassadors?
TY: We promoted the MyChart app by making flyers. Signing up for MyChart is kind of long and complicated, so we simplified it. … We also made a raffle to get people to sign up for it. Every student who signed up for MyChart got a bit of paper they filled out and put in the raffle box. We did a drawing, and the winner got a Dunkin Donuts gift card.
Dr. Janet Lee: Because we’re all about promoting health and donuts.
TY: We also hosted a panel. We had doctors from different specialties: a gynecologist, a pediatrician, a medical resident, a nutritionist. We came up with questions about what they do, what a day in their life is like… There were lots of good questions from the audience.
I hear you have a dodgeball tournament on Friday.
FQ: Yeah. The student ambassadors did it last year for awareness. Two hundred people came last year. Everyone loved it, so we wanted to do it again.
JL: We’ve tried to be more eco-friendly this year and use less paper. [The student ambassadors] added a QR code for the Google forms, so students can just scan the QR code. Lots of people used it.
Do you have a memorable moment from your time being student ambassadors?
FQ: We have workshops about different topics: women’s health, stress, etc. I really liked the women’s health one—I didn’t know that much about women’s health before.
JL: With the workshops, I’ll have someone come in and talk to them about different health topics. We’re giving [the student ambassadors] concrete knowledge points, so as they go out into the school they have this base of information.
TY: I really liked making t-shirts [for the dodgeball tournament]. I like working together as a team to get things done.
I hear you both want to go into the medical field. What appeals to you about medicine?
TY: I love helping people. When my mom and I see someone who needs help, we help them. One time we took in someone who was homeless and gave him a place to stay and fed him. I really like doing that and helping people. I want to learn how to do that in a more effective way.
FQ: It’s tied to my love of teaching. I like being able to make a change.
TY: And you feel really rewarded by that!
What are your other interests and hobbies outside of being student ambassadors?
TY: I like to play basketball, volleyball and dance. I do traditional dance—Nepali, Hindi, Bollywood, Tibetan.
FQ: I’m part of the drama club, where I rehearse plays with my peers. I also love reading and biking.
Will you be student ambassadors again next year?
FQ and TY together: Definitely!
The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, judgment free health care at no charge to over 10,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.