Student drug awareness program goes to Washington

March 21, 1999

WASHINGTON, DC--Medical students from Georgetown University, George Washington University and the University of Maryland will receive a crash course from University of Chicago medical students in the Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) program this week.

ASAP uses a scientific approach to educate fifth through eighth graders about the effects of drug abuse with the help of normal and drug-damaged human hearts, lungs, livers, and brains that serve as centerpieces for discussion on the devastating effects drugs have on the body.

After the Washington area medical students are trained, they will disperse with the University of Chicago team to deliver the ASAP message to local schools, detention facilities and youth centers in the capitol region.

The trip to Washington comes after a highly successful meeting in Chicago between University of Chicago students and more than 90 medical students from around the country on March 11-12, 1999 for the annual American Medical Students Association (AMSA) meeting.

At the meeting, University of Chicago students trained visiting medical students in the ASAP program. Later, the group split up to visit a middle school on Chicago's South Side and one in the affluent suburb of Kenilworth.

"The program is wonderful, the kids have been talking about it all week," said sixth grade teacher Pamela Lees from the John Hope Academy on the South Side. "I think that by using the organs, the ASAP program gets through to the kids far better than straight lecturing could," said Lees.

More than 20 DC area medical students will join the University of Chicago students from March 22-26, 1999 in: Alexandria, Virginia at the Glasgow Middle School and in DC proper at the Latin American Youth Center and the Jewish Primary Day School. They will also visit the Oak Hill Youth Detention Center. More than 800 preteens and teenagers will be reached in the capitol region this week using the University of Chicago ASAP program.

"The facilities in the DC area that we will visit represent the diverse group of students our program targets. We strongly believe all children are at risk for drug use," says Charles Samenow, fourth year medical student and one of the developers of ASAP. "Our scientific approach offers a universal message that helps all kids, regardless of background, understand the profound consequences drugs have on the body."

In 1997, the ASAP program was adopted by the AMSA as the national model of school-based substance abuse prevention for medical schools around the country. In the Chicago area, the ASAP program and the partnerships it formed have experienced absolute success. During the past four years, University of Chicago students have reached nearly 3,500 fifth through eighth graders, and the program has been incorporated into many local schools' official substance abuse prevention curricula. The program was also recognized as a winner of the 1998 Exemplary Prevention Program Awards by the United States Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP).

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