Tag: Loyola Stritch School of Medicine

Loyola University’s DACA Students Get National Exposure On CBS Show

Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: A screenshot of a CBS This Morning segment, which aired on Jan. 11, featuring students at Loyola’s medical school in Maywood who are DACA recipients, like Cesar Montelongo (pictured above). 

Cesar Montelongo, a medical student at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, told CBS This Morning that he’s afraid of “footsteps outside of my door.”

Continue reading “Loyola University’s DACA Students Get National Exposure On CBS Show”

In Maywood, a Gardening Revolution Could Be Slowly Taking Root


Christopher Epps, the full-time gardener responsible for cultivating the Proviso Giving Garden in Maywood. | Michael Romain/VFP

Saturday, July 8, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The closing of Aldi in Maywood last year, and Ultra Food in Forest Park and Meijer in Melrose Park this year, have created something of a desert in Proviso Township when it comes to places residents can go to get fresh produce.

But on Madison St. in Maywood, right across the street from Proviso East High School and adjacent ReUse Depot, there’s an oasis.

“I grew too much,” said Christopher Epps, 36, during an interview on Saturday. Epps is the full-time gardener who is slowly, deliberately making the Proviso Partners Giving Garden the start of what he hopes will be a paradigm shift in how Proviso Township residents relate to the food they eat.

He pointed his soiled hand to raised beds of carrots, egg plants, bell peppers, jalapeños, yellow and blue watermelons, collard greens, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, tomato, rhubarb, basil, cilantro, dill — all of it grown organically on a sliver of land that’s roughly the size of someone’s backyard.

“I’m aiming to grow 4,000 pounds of [food],” Epps said. “Right now, I’m at, like, 487. At this rate, I might get more than 4,000 pounds.”

The work of Epps and the Giving Garden are the result of around $2.5 million in grants that Proviso Partners for Health (PP4H) will receive over five years from Trinity Health.

Formed in 2014, PP4H is a coalition of stakeholders that united to fight against childhood obesity in the western suburbs.

The community stakeholders include “Loyola University Health System, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, as well as Proviso-Leyden Council for Community Action, Proviso East High School, Quinn Community Center, Green Business Network and more than a dozen other community and social service organizations, government agencies and businesses,” according to,” according to a 2016 Loyola statement announcing the series of Trinity grants.

Epps said he partnered with PP4H and Trinity in order “to teach all of the kids in the area how to grow food.” The grant funding allows Epps to work the garden full-time, 40 hours a week. Epps volunteers another 45 hours on top of the hours for which he’s paid. 

“This was a trial period,” Epps said of the garden, adding that if all goes according to his ambitions, the Madison Street garden will be the first of 13. He plans to set down 12 more gardens in Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood over the next three years.

Each Saturday this summer, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., volunteers will be selling produce grown in the Giving Garden on Madison at a farm stand erected in front of ReUse Depot. Prices for vegetable bundles, such as carrots and chard, range from $1 to $3.

What isn’t sold is donated to charities and social organizations like the Quinn Community Center in Maywood, where all of the produce from the garden is stored after its picked.

By September, Epps said, the garden’s produce will be sold on shelves in four corner stores — two in Maywood, one in Forest Park and one in Oak Park.

“The idea is to make Proviso Township a sustainable food hub,” said Epps. “Some people have to leave outside of the township just to get food and it shouldn’t be that way. You can have a neighborhood that way but you can never have a community that way.”

Epps said that the idea of eating organic produce is a learning process for many residents, one that he helps expedite by often giving away food to residents who live nearby and to the elderly.


Keion Mackey, a Berkeley resident who volunteers with the Proviso Giving Garden in Maywood. | Michael Romain/VFP

“This is food is healing people,” he said. “It’s also a tool for the elderly in the neighborhood to come out. Each morning I speak with them and we exchange ideas.”

The garden is also a place to cultivate young minds like that of Keion Mackey, a teenager who lives in Berkeley but who volunteers his time on the weekends at the garden.

“I’ve been gardening since I was little, when I did it with my grandmother,” he said. “It feels like I’ve been doing this my whole life. My family owns land in Arkansas and Mississippi that we lease to the government to grow soil.”

Alyssa Post, a rising senior at Illinois State University and aspiring dietician who is undergoing an internship at Loyola, said her time at the garden is essential to her career path.

“When I graduate this upcoming spring, I have to do dietetic rotations and Loyola has a master’s program that I eventually want to enroll in,” she said.

Until then, she takes in the hard-earned mastery of Epps, who was on an entirely different career trajectory before taking up gardening.

“Five years ago, I was a forklift operator at Waste Management,” he said. “I was stuck, though. My pay had peaked at around $19. I said, ‘I need to do something else.’ I saw an ad for an internship with the Chicago Botanical Garden. I applied, got it and graduated at the top of my class. They introduced me to PP4H.”

Epps said that, in addition to scaling up, his plans for the Madison St. garden point are sky high — quite literally.

“It’s going to get better,” he said. “I’m thinking about expanding to the roof. You know McCormick Place has the largest rooftop garden in the Midwest. I helped put it up there.” VFP

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White Coats for Black Lives: Loyola Med Students Stage ‘Die-in’ in Solidarity with Victims of Police Abuse

DSC_1486Loyola Stritch medical students stage a die-in inside the school’s atrium Wednesday afternoon. Below, the students hold hands in mock surrender to protest the rash of shootings of unarmed black men at the hands of police that’s occurred nationwide. Photos by Michael Romain for the Village Free Press.

DSC_1492Wednesday, December 10, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: December 11, 2014 || 3:01 PM

The future doctors want to go beyond their profession’s ethical mission to ‘Do no harm’ and ‘Do what’s right’

MAYWOOD | About 60 medical students, in addition to some staff and faculty members, at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine played dead in the school’s atrium this afternoon. As with similar demonstrations that have occurred across the country, the participants lay motionless and silent for 4 ½ minutes to symbolize the 4 ½ hours the body of 18-year-old Michael Brown lay in the street after his death at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri police officer.

The Loyola demonstration was part of a much broader show of solidarity with the victims of police brutality and abuse put on at medical schools nationwide. They’ve become known as “white coat die-ins” and are the spontaneous combustions of a series of social media stances – notably the twitter campaigns #CrimingWhileWhite and #BlackLivesMatter – meant to provoke both dialogue and outrage at the racial disparities in police treatment across the country.

“Shoplifted when I was a teenager,” tweets one person, presumably white, under the CrimingWhileWhite hashtag. “Was apprehended but never charged because I looked “like a good kid.”

“What we are addressing now are the continued ripple effects of a dark history of oppression and aggression [that] have left no generation of Americans untouched,” said first-year medical student Kamaal Jones after referencing the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, both unarmed black men, at the hands of cops who weren’t indicted for their actions.

First-year medical student Camille Beecher said that she and her colleagues want to push beyond the mere professional demands of the Hippocratic Oath to a much more radical and encompassing prerogative.

“We stand here now to hold each other accountable to the missions of using the privilege conferred by these white coats to promote equity, compassion and justice,” she said. “Our history ends with the present. From this moment on, we’ll push beyond ‘do no harm,’ to ‘do the right thing.’”

“This is not just a political issue, this is a public health issue – and above all, this is a human rights issue,” Beecher said. “White coats for black lives, white coats for all lives.”

Several groups of students donning white coats ascended to a podium suspended about a dozen feet over their colleagues in the atrium and recited quotations by historical figures such as John F. Kennedy, Frederick Douglas and Malcolm X.

“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing,” one group recited, channeling the spirited dissent of the slain Black Muslim leader. “I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation.”

Schizelle Rush, the first-year medical student who planned the Loyola die-in, said that the students wanted to show through their actions that they’re not just absorbed with addressing physiological problems.

“It was important for us – as an African-American and multi-cultural community, and as medical students – to say that we care about these things,” Rush said. “We are here to help others, but we care about them in a context that’s broader than medicine.”

First-year medical student Dani Terrell hopes that the national show of compassion among medical students would exhibit some staying power and perhaps evolve into a new kind of social awareness.

“I really feel in a lot of ways that the Civil Rights movement of the sixties was incomplete and it kind of fizzled out,” said the Memphis native.

“We had the eighties and nineties and people felt like, ‘Oh, racism is over, stop talking about that, it doesn’t exist.’ But the recent events — starting with Trayvon and the countless others whose names we don’t know — have shown the nation and the world that this does exist. And I think, more importantly, the people of my generation feel that we can do something about it. We feel like we can take it so much farther and actually change people’s hearts, instead of just changing laws.” VFP

More Than Half of District 89 Sixth Graders Overweight or Obese, Says Loyola Health Experts

jp-OBESITY-articleLargeAt William H. Ziegler Elementary in Northeast Philadelphia, students are getting acquainted with vegetables and healthy snacks. Photo by Jessica Kourkinos for the New York Times. Caption by the New York Times. Below, left, Lena Hatchett (right) and Loretta Brown during the October 4th symposium at Loyola. Photo by Michael Romain for the Village Free Press.

Loyola enlists community members, childcare experts, school administrators, government officials and business owners to help tackle Proviso’s childhood obesity problem

Screenshot 2014-10-16 at 6.22.10 PMThursday, October 16, 2014 || By Michael Romain

Among the sixth graders enrolled in District 89, more than half — 51 percent — are either overweight or obese, according to Garry Sigman, a professor of Pediatrics and the medical director of the Loyola Pediatric Weight Management Program.

Sixth graders in DuPage County, by comparison, are overweight or obese at a rate of about 33 percent — an 18 percent disparity.

The disparities become even more exaggerated when comparing the obesity rates of different racial and ethnic groups, with blacks and Hispanics experiencing 51 percent and 21 percent higher obesity rates than whites, respectively, according to data provided by the DuPage County Health Department.

“These disparities are very important,” said Dr. Sigman, who has been monitoring District 89 students since 2013. “It’s important that we focus on them and on how we can create a solution within our community and with our community members.”

According to a handout prepared by the Pediatric Weight Management Program, the “rate of childhood obesity in the United States has tripled since the 1970s. Children and teens who are obese can have significant health problems, including high blood pressure, Type 2, diabetes, breathing problems or trouble sleeping. They risk more health problems as they grow into adults.”

Dr. Sigman presented this data at an October 4th health symposium at Loyola University Chicago’s Health Sciences Campus. The event comprised the first gathering of the newly formed Proviso Partners for Health (PPH), an organization dedicated to devising policy solutions to childhood obesity in the Proviso area.

Lena Hatchett, an assistant professor at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine and director of Community and University Partnerships, said that a 15-member advisory committee had been planning the October 4th launch since this spring. She said before PPH was constituted, the university’s approach to combating Proviso’s adolescent obesity problem was informal and decentralized.

“We had all been working separately before this,” she said at the symposium. “It was these people working over here and those people working over there, but now we’re all coming together.”

Health experts, business owners, government officials and community leaders from around Proviso Township and places beyond were gathered at the symposium to brainstorm and devise long-term, comprehensive strategies for tackling the childhood obesity crisis in the area.

Hatchett was central to many of the isolated partnerships that existed before PPH was formed, collaborating with organizations such as Maywood Fine Arts to plant community gardens throughout the village.

Loretta Brown, a local gardening enthusiast, said that she collaborated with Hatchett, Cook County, the Illinois Prairie Path Association and the University of Illinois, to grow gardens along Prairie Path and throughout Maywood.

“I maintain the gardens and Lena gets her medical students — and I get other students — to come over and to help,” she said. “We have gardens now along the path at First, 11th and 17th Avenues.”

Recently, after persistent prodding, Brown was able to persuade the Maywood Park District to grow and maintain a garden annexing its Ninth Avenue headquarters.

The logic is that if local youth become more familiar with fresh food in their environment, they’ll be more likely to want to eat it — a scenario that unfortunately seems distant given the present reality.

One of the most prevalent concerns mentioned by those in attendance was the general aversion to healthy foods among many of the youth they work with and encounter — an aversion that is only encouraged by current school lunch programs and meals served in homes.

“What’s always amazing to me is to see how slow the progress is in school lunch changes and just the amount of junk that is eaten by kids,” said Elizabeth Lippit, executive director of the Infant Wellness Society’s Children’s Clinic in Oak Park.

“It’s appalling,” she said.


Operation Uplift

During a workshop session, one childcare provider servicing a predominantly Hispanic demographic said that she’s tried to feed her children healthy alternatives, but those only get rebuffed by the kids.

“The children are not willing to really eat [a lot of healthy foods],” she said. “We’re really limited as to what they’ll eat, because I can give them all the healthy food I want, but if they don’t eat it it’s useless. It has to start at home, because if the parents aren’t introducing certain things, it’s really hard for me to push them.

“We do brocolli, and the kids go, ‘Uh, uh.’ They’ll lick it and push it to the side,” she said. “Corn, potatoes — they’ll have them any kind of way — fried, baked, pureed. But if I tried to feed them something they don’t really get at their homes, they won’t even consider it.”

Robert Carter, food services director for District 209, said that the students he serve have been forced to adapt to meals with less sodium and more whole grains, vegetables and fruits than before. The changes are part of the USDA’s new emphasis on providing students with healthier lunches, but the changes haven’t been easy.

“The kids don’t understand the changes,” Carter said. “Anytime you get something new, you get a drawback. The big complaint is that they don’t like the new food, but it isn’t going anywhere.”

Adam Becker, the executive director of the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, said that a major part of PPH’s approach would be based, in part, on comprehensive policy changes at the socioeconomic level.

He said that the traditional approach to thinking about obesity has been through the prism of “teaching people, trying to motivate or change attitudes, or trying to train people and give them new skills.”

Instead, Becker noted, people should think about solutions to childhood obesity through an ecological framework.

He said that this framework approaches the problem in a way that doesn’t isolate the individual, communal and societal perspectives from each other, but “helps us to think about all these factors across all levels.”


Screenshot 2014-10-14 at 12.45.27 PM

During the symposium, the organization facilitated workshops in the areas of early childhood, schools, physical activity and the built environment, and community food access.

“When we think about obesity, childhood or otherwise, we need to think about … how it affects the family and the community overall,” said Loretta Brown during a session that included Mayor Edwenna Perkins and State Rep. Kathleen Willis (77th).

For Lennel Grace, the president of Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NOMCO), the diversity of participants only encouraged the kind of synthesis that Becker referenced.

“Within our group, we had every element represented,” said Grace, who was in the session with Brown. “As a result, that served as a catalyst for advancing a number of great ideas that were all grouped around this specific issue. That kind of on the spot, immediate collaboration was great.” VFP

Small and Big Policy Solutions

Participants offered an array of possible lower-level, micro policy solutions, in addition to higher level policy solutions, to tackling childhood obesity. Some of these are included below:

  • More parent education and involvement should be encouraged by funding various programs with money obtained through a tax on beverages that are high in sugar.
  • Good, functional kitchens are a big barrier to healthy food in schools. Since many food service operations are completed under contract with a company, it might be worthwhile for school districts and wellness committees to work together with contract companies to insure that a certain percentage of the contract is put into renovation of school kitchens so healthier foods can be provided.
  • Administrators could devise a pre-approved list of healthy snacks to be sold at sporting events or school celebrations, and parents and/or teachers could arrange to purchase those from the school service vendor on site, so they wouldn’t have to haul them.
  • Physical therapy and the built environment isn’t going to change unless what comes from this meeting engenders a coordinated council that encourages physical activity among youth, said Dr. Sigman. This council would identify people and/or organizations who are already involved in providing more physical activity among youth and eventually institutional partners, such as the school district and municipalities, would be brought in.
  • Municipalities should reduce the barriers that citizens face when trying to establish their own healthy initiatives. For instsance, trying to have a community garden is hard due to certain zoning restrictions, which should be addressed. Also, the tax structure in Maywood is really not welcoming to new businesses, so that’s something that can be addressed at a larger policy level so businesses such as grocery stores and healthier restaurants are enticed to locate here. VFP

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