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A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

Christopher Newport finds the perfect partner in Riverside Health System.

  Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Through several key partnerships, Riverside Health System (RHS) plays a pivotal role in the life and success of Christopher Newport as one of the University’s leading contributors.

RMG Scholars

As our undergraduates make a significant commitment to pursue vocations in health and medicine, they have a powerful partner in Riverside. “We’re investing not only in Christopher Newport and the community but also in the young men and women who want to go into health careers,” says Bill Downey, CEO and President of RHS.

The Riverside Medical Group (RMG) scholarships have provided a springboard for academic and professional success since 2008. Each fall two highly qualified Christopher Newport freshmen interested in pursuing a medical degree receive a $2,500 scholarship. RMG Scholars shadow Riverside physicians several times a year and complete a paid internship at Riverside Medical Center following their second year.

“The RMG program helps attract talented students to Christopher Newport who are interested in medical careers,” says Downey, who hopes many will return to the local community to set up practice.

Christopher Newport’s relationship with Riverside Medical Group has a profound impact on students interested in health-related professions. According to Dr. Nicole Guajardo, Dean of the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, “Students engage in a variety of professional activities that enable them to understand the wide range of opportunities in the medical field, as well as figure out whether a health-related career is for them.” Thanks to Riverside’s commitment, Guajardo notes, CNU students enjoy experiences few undergraduates have.

One such scholar, Kelly Willett ’14 launched her studies at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in 2014. She graduates from EVMS next year and is currently applying to pediatric residency programs nationwide. “Not only did the RMG scholarship enhance my medical school application, it also provided me with an early understanding of what I enjoyed in medicine,” says Willett, who spent much of her RHS internship in the neonatal intensive care unit. “I distinctly remember the neonatologists taking their time to teach me, a 19-year-old college sophomore, the basics of infant care. When I was on my nursery rotation this past July, I recalled this information when caring for my newborn patients. To this day, neonatology is still high on my list of future careers.”

Riverside also provides acute-care shadowing opportunities in pre-physical therapy and pre-occupational therapy, among other practical experiences. “We have students participating in internships in such areas as pathology, conducting research with physicians and a large number volunteering at Riverside,” says Dr. Gwynne Brown, CNU’s Director of Pre-Med and Pre-Health Programs. “In the latter category, I like to think we are helping them as much as our students are gaining valuable experiences.”

Captains Athletics

Teaming with CNU Athletics, Riverside Health System stands committed to seeing student-athletes excel at the highest level. In addition to preventative care, RHS offers medical treatment following sports-related injuries. “CNU is a valued partner for Riverside,” notes Doug Culbert, Orthopedic Service Line Administrator for RHS, which specializes in preventative sports medicine for active adults and student-athletes. “We try to identify what is causing an issue and therefore preventing student-athletes from accomplishing what they need to do.”

Dr. J.R. Barley from Riverside serves as the team’s physician, offering primary care and other services during scheduled on-campus hours as well as on-call availability. Additional benefits include access to an RHS athletic trainer, surgical and nonsurgical orthopedics, and ancillary support – including imaging and diagnostics, which are critical in the world of athletics.

While Riverside helps student-athletes resume playing as quickly as possible following an injury, returning them to the classroom remains the No. 1 priority. Kyle McMullin, CNU Director of Athletics, stresses the need for a support structure that promotes achievement in all areas. “Our athletes are students first, and we have their best interests at heart,” he says. “We’re lucky that Riverside is a committed partner of ours in meeting the health-care demands of the student-athlete population.”

By investing in Christopher Newport’s success, RHS also sees benefits. “It raises awareness of the services we offer by partnering with an institution very similar in culture and direction,” Culbert says.

Performing Arts

While people generally associate preventative care with athletics, they often don’t equate it with the performing arts. Riverside rehab aide Ann Fitzgerald notes, “When you talk about the arts, people don’t see that connection, but you need to have proper care in order to perform.”

Bridging the worlds of science and performance, Riverside Performing Arts Medicine actively engages with students enrolled in music, theater and dance. As a result, Christopher Newport’s undergraduates not only develop skills to become exceptional performers but also learn how to nurture their talents through healthy behaviors. This represents a unique partnership for a university like Christopher Newport. Typically such relationships exist at schools that have medical centers or at conservatories.

“The health and wellness of performing artists are at the vanguard of arts education, providing aspiring performers with the knowledge and skills to protect their bodies and prolong their careers,” says Dr. Mark Reimer, CNU’s Torggler Professor of Music and Director of Music Programs.

Riverside employs several health professionals with performance backgrounds who serve as guest lecturers throughout the academic year – as well as during CNU’s Torggler Summer Vocal Institute. Topics explored include vocal health, proper keyboard posture, tendonitis issues for string players, techniques to manage performance anxiety, vocal production for actors and more.

Last year Dr. Raouf Gharbo and Brittany Reed, a senior physical therapy assistant, taught the University’s Wind Ensemble how to establish a routine of heart-rate variability and mindfulness to help relax the mind and focus on the music being played. Participants even applied the techniques to exam preparation, which lessened their test-taking anxiety. In addition, Riverside’s physical therapists work closely with CNU’s dancers while speech therapists help student performers protect their vocal instrument through examinations.

Riverside has also sponsored several dance performances as well as TSVI guest vocalists. “We’ve been able to use events to reach out to the local dance community, letting them know what programs are available,” notes Rebekah Lulow, Outpatient Therapy Manager.

“How fortunate we are to have these incredible resources just steps from our classrooms and concert halls,” Reimer adds. “As artists, we use both our mind and our body to interpret and express meaning and emotion. Riverside Performing Arts Medicine gives us the knowledge and skills to connect with our breathing, to manage our thoughts and to control our movement, allowing us to embody and convey to our audience the essence of what the composer, playwright or choreographer intended.”

Health and Wellness

As Riverside engages with campus athletes and performers, it also provides health-care for all students through University Health and Wellness. Thanks to this partnership, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and Riverside Family Medicine physicians offer various services: physicals, lab work, vaccinations, blood-pressure monitoring, illness and injury care, and more. Students can visit the clinic in The Freeman Center Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

“Basically, we’re like a family practice or urgent care service for students,” says Missy Baines, RHS Practice Manager for Business Health Services. She notes how Riverside’s team enjoys working with students who are living away from home for the first time – and how families, in turn, appreciate the care provided. “A lot of parents call and thank us, and they often want to know how they can help Riverside,” Baines says.

Kevin Hughes, CNU’s Vice President of Student Affairs, commends Riverside’s efforts toward incorporating health services into an existing campus culture. “Our students just think it’s Christopher Newport,” he says. Adds Baines, CNU has done a good job making us part of their family.”

Lifelong Learning

Beyond the student population, Riverside partners with Christopher Newport’s LifeLong Learning Society (LLS), which offers educational and social programs for retirement-age people.

Operated by RHS, Warwick Forest is the Peninsula’s premier retirement community – and a generous LifeLong Learning sponsor the past three years. Warwick Forest has partnered with LLS in numerous ways: streaming lectures to the retirement community, providing refreshments for LifeLong Learning’s open house, sponsoring annual parties at both a Captains home football and basketball game, and hosting LLS members at CNU each fall for a campus tour and breakfast.

Warwick Forest promotes an active lifestyle on a 10-acre Newport News campus. According to Andrea Staskiel, the group’s Director of Marketing and Sales, the LLS learning experience can benefit adults of all ages. “It was probably the most robust curriculum we had seen anywhere,” she says. “Older adults are very well served to continue learning.” As a result, many Warwick Forest residents have enrolled in LLS and enjoy membership discounts and other benefits.

As part of LifeLong Learning’s curriculum, Riverside health professionals offer instruction on health-related topics during 10-week LLS programs. “The evaluations have been very positive,” notes Liz Williams, Vice President of Marketing for RHS, who stresses the positive effects of LifeLong Learning’s mission. “The engagement level of those who participate is amazing and invigorating to see.”

LifeLong Learners have also attended classes and events at Warwick Forest where they learn about the services and amenities offered. “Riverside and Warwick Forest employ a very proactive approach to healthy aging, and LLS is part of that,” Staskiel says.

“It’s been a boon for us,” notes LLS Director Jane Sulzberger. For one, Warwick Forest’s sponsorship enabled LifeLong Learning to purchase new audio-visual equipment for the Yoder Barn, where most classes take place. Plus, she says, “We have been able to keep our dues as they are without raising them.” In fact, LLS membership has increased dramatically over the past six years, growing from 500 to more than 750. Much of this has occurred since Warwick Forest began partnering with LifeLong Learning, which helped boost LLS’ outreach.


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