November 30, 2023

Medical students showcase success of Vaccine Ambassadors Program at national conference

The results of a grassroots effort launched in 2022 to increase the knowledge of vaccines in the Detroit community by empowering youth to disseminate accurate information and dispel myths was shared on the national stage recently.

Faculty and students from the Wayne State University School of Medicine attended the IDWeek 2023 Conference in Boston, Oct. 11-15, to discuss the Vaccine Ambassadors Program, a School of Medicine project led by students with the Infectious Disease Interest Group and Master of Public Health student Catherine Maples, mentored by Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases Teena Chopra, M.D., M.P.H.

Ambassadors aimed to spread this knowledge to youth in Detroit communities through outreach events.

Medical student Jennifer Schmidt presented the poster, “Peer-to-Peer Model to Educate and Spread Awareness of Vaccines in Detroit.”

The poster noted that since the COVID-19 pandemic, national vaccination rates show a dangerous decline, with Detroit among the lowest with only 41.3% of adolescents completing the vaccine series. The Vaccine Ambassador program was created to mitigate the decline in vaccination rates through the education and empowerment of youth via the train-the-trainer model of education. 

The program was implemented with 11 high school students, who received education on the history and mechanism of vaccines, herd immunity and how to effectively communicate.

The Vaccine Ambassador program increased the ambassadors’ depth of knowledge and reaffirmed their positive attitudes about vaccines by measuring the students’ pre- and post-program knowledge, and ability to teach others. By teaching their peers, youth can make informed decisions when older and enact behavioral changes that promote healthier living.

“This project is a community-based project supported through the Detroit Community Foundation. We are very grateful to them for their support,” Dr. Chopra said.

In addition to Schmidt and Dr. Chopra, the study and program collaborators included medical students Sofia Howson, Rebekah Pitpitan, Jack McConnell and Soham Desai; Dean of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts Matthew Seeger, Ph.D.; Associate Professor of Pathology Marilynn Fairfax, M.D., Ph.D.; and community member Simran Adnani.

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