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Medical Student Leads Health Literacy Training Efforts on Campus

Though the AMA Foundation's health literacy efforts are aimed at physicians, some its most enthusiastic participants haven't even completed medical school yet.

A great example is Anu Kathiresan, a third-year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia who over the past year has created a major health literacy effort on her campus, helped in part by a health literacy grant from the AMA Foundation.

Kathiresan, 25, first became interested in health literacy after attending the AMA's Annual Meeting in 2003. After hearing about the Foundation's health literacy programs, she ordered a copy of the Health Literacy Kit and watched it with a group of fellow medical students.

"It was startling to us that nobody had told us about health literacy when it is such a big problem," she said. "We all felt it was something that should be taught in medical school."

Kathiresan, joined by students Jeremiah Johnson and David Newton, began an effort to get health literacy training integrated into the medical curriculm at her school, and eventually convinced the faculty to allow them to present health literacy lectures themselves to their fellow students. Later the group extended its efforts to other programs on campus, including dentistry, nursing and allied health.

Following up on their early success, the group has applied for funding that will enable them to extend their health literacy efforts to patients in Marietta and other Georgia communities. The students have also brought health literacy expert Mark Williams, MD, to campus to lecture. Dr. Williams is featured in the AMA Foundation video "Help Your Patients Understand."

The students say they are now taking their ideas on the road to meetings of medical organizations around the country and making plans for expansions to their local program.