Former Kansas City Chiefs safety Deron Cherry visited the Joplin campus of Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences on Tuesday to attend the first Score 1 for Health program offered by the school’s Joplin location, where about 100 students from West Central Elementary School received free health assessments from second-year medical students.
Score 1 for Health was founded 25 years ago by Cherry and Robert G. Ricci, late director of medical education at Park Lane Medical Center in Kansas City.
“It’s amazing for me to see this,” Cherry said. “I’m happy to be down here to watch this take place.”
In the program, the young students are partnered with a future osteopathic physician from KCU Joplin to receive physical, dental, lung, heart, vision, blood pressure and musculoskeletal exams. If any health problems are identified, students can then seek treatment from their primary care physician or be referred to a new one.
“It’s such a great program,” said Laura Rosch, dean of the campus. “It’s an early opportunity for the KCU students to receive clinical exposure to their first patients, and also for the children that come in to be able to be screened and possibly identify any conditions that might be important to be followed up on, or receive further treatment by their primary care physician.”
Rosch said that KCU Joplin seeks to grow the program locally and plans to look at partnering with four area elementary schools this year.
Cherry said the idea for the program started when he was about to retire from playing football and was approached by Ricci about working together to raise funds to improve health in the community. At the time, he was interested but did not know specifically what he would want funds to go toward.
Later, he was sitting at home watching the news and saw a story about an elementary school student who was about to be put in a learning disability program but found out that she only had a vision issue that could be solved with glasses.
“I said to myself at the time, ‘How many more of our kids are in school that are having issues that have gone undetected and are being labeled as kids who have disabilities when they really don’t?'” Cherry said.
After seeing that story, Cherry was inspired to begin the Score 1 for Health program to ensure that elementary school children could be healthy and succeed in school, as well as provide practice for medical students.
“Being able to do the screenings was something that we thought would be a great start toward benefiting these young kids as they start their career in education,” Cherry said. “In order for them to be successful, they have to be healthy, and doing these screenings makes that possible.”
Connor Bridge, a second-year student at KCU Joplin, said the program is a win-win for medical students and the community.
“We are here for our first two years and we’re hitting the books, we’re doing lectures and we’re practicing our exam skills on essentially actors,” Bridge said. “For these kids, they’re real patients. We get to listen to their heart and check their ears and hear how their day is and how school is, and I think that’s a really great chance for us to practice what we’re doing.”
The program also works as a way for the new campus to connect with the community, Bridge said.
“We are the first class in a new medical school, so Joplin may not know us that well or we don’t necessarily know Joplin well,” he said. “But this is a really great opportunity to infuse ourselves with the community and make a lasting impression.”
Joplin Mayor Gary Shaw, who visited the program’s launch Tuesday morning, said he was excited to see the future doctors interacting with elementary students.
“It’s just amazing to see the interaction that’s going on here,” he said. “It’s certainly a blessing for our community, no doubt about that. I’m just looking forward to the future we’re going to have with it as they (KCU Joplin) grow and we grow with them.”