Community Engaged Service Learning (CESL):

cesl 1

Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) defines Community Engaged Service Learning (CESL) as an educational experience in which students, through a structured service activity, identify and reflect upon community needs and assets that culminate in an enhanced sense of civic responsibility as healthcare professionals.

The CESL elective was introduced into the Rutgers NJMS curriculum during the Fall of 2015 for the incoming first year class. The course seeks to build upon and enhance a rich culture of service at NJMS by providing students with structured guidance for implementing meaningful, effective, and sustainable service projects that address the needs of Newark and surrounding communities. In addition, service learning experiences offer an invaluable opportunity for students to develop core skills in cultural competency, health education, patient advocacy, and community-engaged research and evaluation that will help them to develop into leaders in the medical field and in the communities they serve. The CESL course has various components including direct service activities, didactic sessions, reflection essays and a project report.

History of Community Service at New Jersey Medical School:

Community service has been a fundamental cornerstone of student life at New Jersey Medical School for decades. Located in the heart of Newark, the medical school is surrounded by a diverse community with complex social and economic challenges. . Many students, faculty, and staff from the institution recognize the unique position of the medical school to partner with the community in order to achieve better health outcomes for local families.

New Jersey Medical School is home to one of the oldest student-run clinics in the country. The Student Family Health Care Center (SFHCC) was established following the Newark riots in 1967 with the goal of providing care for medically underserved families in the community. Staffed by medical students and supervised by an attending Family Physician, SFHCC offers appointments for patients two nights per week and continues to be one of the most active student organizations on campus. In recent years, SFHCC has expanded to provide clinical services at satellite clinics in two local homeless shelters in Newark.

In 1996, Student Health Advocacy for Resources and Education (SHARE) was established as an umbrella student service organization. Over the years, SHARE has facilitated numerous service programs related to community health and educational outreach in Newark and beyond. Some examples of student service activities have included:

  • Health education sessions for young mothers
  • Tutoring and mentoring relationships with students from local schools
  • Health conferences for community leaders
  • Blood pressure, glucose, and vision screenings at local churches
  • Creating cookbooks with healthy recipes for families to try at home
  • HIV education and prevention workshops

In addition to getting involved with long-established service groups, NJMS students are encouraged to collaborate with local organizations to design and implement new service projects that will fill an important need within the community. This has led to a culture of active community engagement among NJMS students and a wide spectrum of exciting service opportunities.