MedPals and Caring HeARTS Create Holiday Joy for Kids with Hearing Loss

Making reindeers from flower pots and penguins from paper plates may not be part of the official medical school curriculum, but for 14 Miller School students who volunteered at The Barton G. Kids Hear Now Cochlear Implant Family Resource Center’s last Family Night of 2012, the holiday merrymaking provided a poignant and refreshing reminder of why they elected to endure four arduous years of study.

“I can’t speak for others, but for me, it reminds me why I’m going to medical school,” said Christine Pao, president of the student organization MedPals, which joined forces with another student organization, Caring HeARTS, to provide arts and crafts entertainment to children with hearing loss who are being evaluated for or already have a cochlear implant at the resource center’s December 12 Family Night in the Clinical Research Building.

“Seeing how resilient these children are through the cochlear implant process and witnessing the impact medicine has on their lives always gives me that extra motivation for all those late nights of studying,” said Pao, whose organization also staged a BYOJ (Bring Your Own Juice) Painting Night and a Personality Photo Shoot for Barton G. patients last year. “The transition to hearing is not an easy one. Our goal is to coordinate these events so the patients and their siblings can just have a good time. We like to see the kids having fun, but we get equal amounts of joy from volunteering and working with them.”

Organized by Ivette Cruz Cejas, Ph.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology and director of the resource center, Family Nights are held about once every three months to provide support for and guide families through the cochlear implant process. While Caring HeARTs and MedPals volunteers lead arts and crafts projects with the kids, Cruz and her staff are able to discuss with the adults how to help their child develop listening and spoken language skills. Typically, about 100 people, representing 30 to 40 families, attend the event.

“Our Family Nights would not be possible without the involvement of the medical student volunteers,” Cruz said. “It is amazing to watch them work with the kids on arts and crafts. They are clearly nurturing young professionals who are excited to work with children with hearing loss. The Kids Hear Now staff and families thank Caring HeARTs and MedPals for all their hard work and dedication to our organization and mission to help deaf children become part of the hearing world.”

For the record, MedPals’ events coordinator, second-year student Kiran Sethi, dreamed up the reindeer ornament design – an overturned clay pot with dancing eyes – and Caring HeARTS’ Linda Li, also a second-year student, took the lead on turning paper plates into penguins.

Also on hand at the December 12 gathering to lend their support and holiday cheer were events impresario Barton G. Weiss and Jill Viner, whose Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation established the family resource center.

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