Winners of 2016 Tar Wars FMIG Challenge Spark Enthusiasm

May 04, 2016 11:13 am Chris Crawford

Medical students Brianne Rowan (right) and Samantha Moen from the University of Washington School of Medicine present Tar Wars at Chimacum Elementary School in Chimacum, using their popular inflatable pig lungs.

Each school year, medical students present the AAFP's Tar Wars curriculum to fourth- and fifth-grade students to teach them about the consequences of tobacco use, the associated cost and advertising techniques the tobacco industry uses to market their products to youth.

The Academy recently recognized three family medicine interest groups (FMIGs) at medical schools as part of the Tar Wars Challenge for FMIGs for spreading this message to the most children and communities and rewarded them with prizes of up to $500.

The three winning FMIGs are the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, Jackson (first place); the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield (second place); the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle (third place).

University of Mississippi School of Medicine

The FMIG at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine encourages the promotion of the Tar Wars program to its students each academic year. In fact, all medical students at the school will participate in presenting Tar Wars at least once during their medical school career.

Story highlights
  • The Academy recently recognized three family medicine interest groups (FMIGs) as part of the 2016 Tar Wars Challenge for FMIGs.
  • Each year, medical students present the AAFP's Tar Wars curriculum to fourth- and fifth-grade students to teach them about the consequences of tobacco use, the associated cost and advertising techniques the tobacco industry uses to market their products to youth.
  • The three winning FMIGs are the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, Jackson (first place); the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield (second place); the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle (third place).

Tar Wars presentations by the school's medical students reached more than 3,400 fourth- and fifth-grade students during the past school year , and the program has already been presented to more than 2,000 students this year.

Andrew Brown, a fourth-year medical student and a Tar Wars presenter, told AAFP News he really enjoyed the children's enthusiasm and participation in the anti-tobacco campaign.

"They seemed to really understand how harmful these habits are, and I could feel the impact that Tar Wars is making," he said. "We are grateful for the opportunity to present this material.

"Through the Tar Wars program, (our school) is able to reach thousands of Mississippi children and positively influence both their individual futures and the future of our state."

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

The FMIG at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine continues to grow its Tar Wars program. After reaching more than 600 students during the 2014-2015 school year, the group surpassed that number this academic year -- presenting to 728 students in 34 classrooms at 13 different schools in Springfield.

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is expanding the program to its Carbondale campus, where presentations are planned for later this year. The Tar Wars Poster Contest also has been a hit the past couple of years at Enos Elementary School in Springfield, so the FMIG extended invitations to make presentations at two additional schools that also planned to participate in the Illinois state poster competition.

Third-year medical student and Tar Wars presenter Rachel Segal told AAFP News that a couple of moments during this past year stand out.

Medical students Rachel Segal and Alejandro Montoya (wearing white coats) from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine present the Sticky Man activity during a Tar Wars presentation at Wilcox Elementary School in Springfield.

"One involved kids cheering when we were walking into a school we had presented in last year because they now know who we are and get excited when they see Tar Wars come in," she said.

Segal said it also was rewarding when the group received its first unsolicited request from a teacher who wanted a Tar Wars presentation. "Normally, we have to send out a few emails to schools to find a presentation, but they had heard good things and requested we come to them," she said.

Segal pointed out how important having volunteers who regularly participate has been in enabling the FMIG to sustain and expand its Tar Wars program. "Making it fun for the volunteers has helped in getting repeat volunteers, and we could not do it without them," she said.

University of Washington School of Medicine

The FMIG at the University of Washington School of Medicine gave more Tar Wars presentations and reached more students -- 480 -- than it had in any previous year.

Fourth-year medical student Brianne Rowan told AAFP News that the school's Tar Wars program is unique because it works with City Year AmeriCorps members to contact low-income schools so the program reaches the students who need this anti-tobacco message the most.

Medical student Jesse Morrison from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine presents Tar Wars to a group at Cathedral School in Natchez.

The FMIG's students also set their presentations apart by using an online training video for volunteer presenters and inflatable pig lungs for demonstrations.

"I love the looks on the kids' faces when we pull out the lungs," Rowan said. "We get to watch them go from shock and awe about seeing real pig lungs to realizing that this is how their bodies work."

She also said she loves the moment at the end of a presentation when the presenter asks the students to make a pact with themselves and each other to never start smoking and then gets to watch them internalize this pact. "I hope just one of them uses this in the future to say no to tobacco," Rowan said.

Rowan explained she now realizes what a wonderful asset the Tar Wars program is to her community and others around the country.

"I'm so amazed to hear my family medicine mentor say he used to do this program and to see that it is still in full swing today," she said. "When I work with patients on smoking cessation in the clinic, I find myself wishing that I could go back in time with them and walk them through this prevention program. Quitting is so much harder than never starting."

Related AAFP News Coverage
AAFP Joins Push for Obama to Expand FDA Tobacco Regulation
(4/19/2016)

Tar Wars Updates Resources for Presenters
Program Seeks Applicants for FMIG Awards

(11/30/2015)

Academy Launches Tobacco and Nicotine Toolkit for Members
Effort Is Part of Overarching Health Interventions Program

(11/6/2015)