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For the 3rd year in a row, the University of Cincinnati’s College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS) held its annual Allied Health Race on March 9th, 2019. This year, over 170 students participated in the race and had the opportunity to learn more about one another’s future allied health professions.
The Allied Health Race was established by former health sciences student and Peer Leader Coordinator, Nick O’Hanlon. As a Peer Leader Coordinator, one of the main roles is to create and execute activities to promote engagement of students in the college and provide on-going mentoring and feedback to other fellow Peer Leaders to be a resource for other students. O’Hanlon started the Allied Health Race to allow first-year students to have hands-on experience to the different roles that allied health professions have during treatment, and to recognize the role that their future profession may play in the process.
“My vision was to create something that students felt was beneficial and engaging, and also to put some context to what they're learning in class. It's one thing to learn about chemistry and biology, but to apply some of those basic concepts to a patient situation can help students feel a greater purpose for their classes when it may not always be obvious,” O’Hanlon says.
He feels that interdisciplinary collaboration is an “integral part of health care education” and feels CAHS’ Allied Health Race was the perfect place to lay the foundation for future engaged, holistic professions.
The Allied Health Race is another example of UC's commitment to academic excellence, as outlined in its strategic direction Next Lives Here.
This year’s race was organized by health sciences student and Peer Leader Coordinator, Grace Deutsch, and CAHS First Year Experience Director, Carney Sotto, PhD, professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Deutsch and Sotto started organizing the race back in November of 2018 to ensure it was going to be a success for the incoming students. Deutsch had the opportunity to see the event evolve over the past three years since she started out as a Peer Leader back when O’Hanlon established the Allied Health Race. From then she has been able to generate new ideas to help improve the event.
During the day of the race, students were split into teams and were given the opportunity to participate in a series of engaging activities related to each one of CAHS’ programs at stations led by faculty, staff and Peer Leaders. All activities were created to allow students to engage with each discipline offered by the college. Deutsch says this year she wanted to focus on the importance of interdisciplinary teamwork and that health care professionals from diverse fields work towards a common goal.
In order to mimic the high pressure environment of health care, each group of students had 12 minutes to complete each activity. Activities included using thickening agents for swallowing liquids, using therapy equipment like reachers, hand grippers and more, decoding a phrase written in phonetics, creating a relationship web and learning about the different forms of relationships, blood testing and evaluating brain scans/MRI's.
“The point of the event is not only getting first year students to understand that they will have to work with many different fields in allied health, but also that the patient is the primary focus and the common link between all areas of health care,” says Deutsch.
Students who participated in the race took away a deeper understanding of the fields in allied health and had a lot of positive feedback. Through each activity, they were able to uncover just how interrelated each of their professions are. “I enjoyed meeting other people in the college and learning that the major I'm in is the one I truly want to be in,” said one student in the post-survey feedback.
O’Hanlon had the pleasure of attending this year’s race and see how it has grown from the inaugural year.
“I could not be more proud of where the race has gone. I may have been a part of the team that produced the concept, but the Peer Leaders and faculty have succeeded at vastly improving how much students can get out of the race. It makes me so proud to be an alumnus and to see the event I founded take off in such a meaningful way; and I have no doubt the students and faculty of the future will continue that trend” says O’Hanlon.
CAHS and Deutsch are excited to see what the next Peer Leader Coordinator has in store for the Allied Health Race next year.
“Each year gets a little more organized, and we are hoping that the event continues to get better and better!” Deutsch says.
Featured image at top: Group of College of Allied Health Sciences students pose during the Allied Health Race. Photo credit: Grace Deutsch and Nicole Senkiw/Students/CAHS.