In the Summer of 2002, several of the doctors and other staff at Lawndale Christian Health Center and the area director of the Christian Medical & Dental Society discussed plans to create a student project environment built around real needs in the surrounding community. It was the desire from the outset that the summer project would be an ideal environment in which medical, dental, and allied health students could serve in an urban setting, while working alongside Christian doctors committed to working with the poor in Chicago. During the course of the next year (2002-2003), plans were laid for the first LSMP.
The Lawndale Summer Medical Project was developed as a door-to-door outreach project targeting the health and safety of children residing in the North Lawndale, East and West Garfield communities of near-west Chicago. As a specific medical focus, there would be particular emphasis placed on incidence of lead toxicity, because of historical and current indicators of lead in older homes built in this area.
According to CDPH health statistics, approximately 1/3 of all North Lawndale Children are lead poisoned. Thus, the LSMP sought to achieve two specific goals. First, the LSMP sought to educate residents in the targeted communities about the importance of child health and safety issues. Secondly, the LSMP sought to increase the number of blood lead tests among children in the targeted communities, utilizing a mobile medical van and a phlebotomist.
All blood test results were mailed to the families' homes. Protocol was established for children with an elevated blood lead level to be followed up by Lawndale staff per normal procedures. Of all the children who were screened in the community, 56% (83) were not patients of LCHC. Of the non-LCHC patients who were tested, 36% (30) were lead poisoned. As a result, seven follow-up appointments were scheduled with an LCHC pediatrician.
In 2005, the focus of the LSMP shifted from childhood immunizations and lead poisoning to improving the care of Lawndale patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. Students were given more clinical experiences; the project has grown to include shadowing of doctors and mid-levels at the clinic, weekly health fairs at local grocery stores, and home visits to Lawndale patients with chronic health problems. Students are also involved in mentoring high school students who are part of the Lawndale Summer Youth Project, a work program designed to motivate local, high-achieving teens to finish high school and go on to college and eventually pursue a profession in health care or other fields. Lastly, the LSMP provides opportunities for group Bible study and fellowship as well as the chance to hear speakers on various topics related to medicine and the Christian faith.