New partnership with Sweetser introduces first cohort of COM students to community services

First-year UNE COM students Matt Postolowski, Kaitlyn De Stefano and Carl Minnerath tour the Eslie J. Parquette School, a specia
First-year UNE COM students Matt Postolowski, Kaitlyn De Stefano and Carl Minnerath tour the Eslie J. Parquette School, a special-purpose K-12 private school on Sweetser’s Saco Campus. The students were part of a group of approximately 30 first-year COM students who visited Sweetser as part of UNE’s new partnership with the organization, which provides mental health, recovery, and education services to children, families and adults.

October 24, 2018

Jon Mistos, senior director of facilities and support services at Sweetser, leads COM students on a tour of the grounds.
Jon Mistos, senior director of facilities and support services at Sweetser, leads COM students on a tour of the grounds.
Marc Kaplan, D.O., Sweetser’s medical director (front row, far right), joins the COM students for a group photo. Kaplan, a COM g
Marc Kaplan, D.O., Sweetser’s medical director (front row, far right), joins the COM students for a group photo. Kaplan, a COM graduate in the Class of ’91, also serves as a faculty member at UNE.

Empathy, team work, health promotion and patient-centered care are the hallmarks of health care in UNE’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. In order to expose first-year COM students to the ways in which this type of care is being delivered effectively to people within the community, COM has forged a new relationship with Sweetser, a network of mental health, recovery and education services for children, families and adults throughout the state of Maine.

The partnership, facilitated by Victoria S. Thieme, D.O., director of community clinical experiences for COM, and James Martin, vice president of programs for Sweetser, creates opportunities for groups of first-year COM students to visit Sweetser to learn about the vast array of services that the organization provides, including residential, educational, outpatient, developmental, crisis, community-based and peer services. The first visit took place on October 16, and two more visits are scheduled for later in the academic year.

According to Thieme, during the osteopathic medical students’ first two years of study, they are required to complete community clinical experiences that educate them about the health care needs of a community and how those needs are being met. Sweetser, she said, provides an ideal experience. “This collaboration helps ensure that our new medical students are exposed to the front edge of mental and behavioral health care delivery,” she stated. “As the thrust of health care delivery asks doctors to be team members while placing the patient at the center of care, COM students benefit from seeing this model of care at work. Sweetser is offering this type of clinical learning opportunity to the students right in their own backyard.”

The students toured Sweetser’s Saco campus, the organization’s flagship campus of more than 350 acres. They then broke into groups to get an in-depth look at various components of the organization. One group visited the Eslie J. Parquette School, one of two special-purpose private schools run by Sweetser for children in grades K-12. They also toured Sweetser’s Ricker Farm and the automotive repair shop, both part of Sweetser’s experiential learning program as well. The second group of students was introduced to the New England Eating Disorders (NEED) program (formerly part of Mercy Hospital), which is the only comprehensive eating disorders program in the state. For the third group, Sweetser staff provided the students with information about the organization’s residential program for children.

First-year osteopathic medical student Roshan Patel was surprised by the environment and the offerings at Sweetser, particularly as they impacted children. “As I entered the Sweetser campus, I was not entirely sure of what to expect,” he said. “Beautiful foliage brightened up the entire campus, and everywhere we turned, we were met by another welcoming staff member clearly dedicated to the role they play in the lives of the kids there.” Patel was moved to pledge his support of the organization. “I personally look forward to visiting again and doing my part to help Sweetser as they strive to improve the lives of others,” he shared.

The entire group of students reconvened for a presentation on Sweetser’s peer services, led by Intentional Warm Line Shift LeaderJan Anderson, and a talk about psychiatric services by Sweetser’s medical director Marc Kaplan, D.O. ’91, who also serves as a UNE faculty member. The day was concluded with a student discussion about barriers to mental health and recovery services and possible solutions.

Thieme said that as COM has grown and evolved with the changing practice of medicine, the needs of the students’ clinical exposure have changed. “Without exposure to how mental and behavioral health organizations interface with the hospital, the patient, the family, the counselors and pharmacists, the outcome of the patient’s care falls short,” she noted. “So we are very grateful to Sweetser, not only for the tremendous service that it provides in our state, but for allowing our students to come in to learn such valuable information that will, in the long run, make them better equipped as doctors to provide the best quality of care.”

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