Houston-area medical students form group to help doctors with everything from tasks to tutoring

Local pediatrician, Dr. Sandra McKay and her husband Tim were concerned about their son when the COVID-19 pandemic first started because he no longer had speech therapy available from his school for an articulation disorder. His school speech-language pathologist provided homework and online resources, including YouTube videos specifically designed for speech homework, for his parents to help him with. But they were having a challenging time getting him to work with them on it. Sometimes many parents find that working with someone outside the family is helpful. That's where we bring in medical students from McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.
       A group of them, including Bili Yin, came up with an idea to help UTHealth doctors. "It didn't sit quite right with us that we had all this free time, and the physicians we were working with were stretched so thin and getting asked to work these longer hours. And so there was a big push to be able to do anything that we could in order to support them during this time. And so we went to them and asked how can we can help and they were really having trouble with childcare since schools closed very quickly and they didn't have an opportunity to figure out their childcare situation," explains Bili. 
       Bili and other medical school student volunteers quickly paired students with doctors, and the students donated their time for everything from delivering groceries to pet care and tutoring. Six-year-old Owen McKay's family benefited from their help. Medical student, Caroline Andrews, agreed to tutor him and help him with his speech homework that his speech-language pathologist from school provided. "Owen and I have been meeting during the weekdays for 15 minutes and just working on some sounds that he has challenges with," explains Caroline.
           In a follow-up meeting with the school speech-language pathologist, Dr. McKay received a positive report. "Before COVID, he was really struggling to make the 's sound' as well as the 'th sound', and he can do ‘s’ really well now. He's pretty conversational with ‘s’, which is a big deal for him. We're really excited about it," states his mom, Dr. McKay. His dad agrees. "It's amazing because he's like a sponge, and it's fun just watching him get better and he tries, he doesn't get too frustrated with it and so that really helps a lot," states Tim.
       The McKays say Owen would get frustrated because people outside their family had a hard time understanding him, so they appreciate someone helping tutor him. "The amazing thing about Miss Caroline is that she took this really seriously. I'm sure she didn't know anything about articulation before, but you can tell that she actually did a lot of homework into this, so she really took it seriously so that's been, really helpful in his progress."  
       The family has followed up with Owen's certified speech-language pathologist, to make sure they're staying on the right track and that their homework is helping. They're all happy with the progress, including Caroline. "In the first few weeks, I didn't feel like I was doing much of anything, but it is really cool to see how much, with a little bit of practice every day, that the progress is visible, and so that's been super rewarding," states Caroline. 
       We all gave Owen virtual high-fives on our ZOOM call to praise him for a job, well done. 
       Many of the medical students are back in school, but some are still helping out the doctors when they can. Here's more info about the medical school and information is available at American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.