Programs that Enhance Public Education
In addition to furthering medical education, another role of the Foundation is to improve the community's health and well-being-and public understanding of osteopathic medicine. A wide-ranging community education program has been developed over the years, the impact of which has been documented in the increased awareness level of the general public.
Activities have included underwriting and developing valuable charitable programs, sponsorship of forums on major social problems, publication of osteopathic books and periodicals, multi-media educational advertising, and radio and television programming.
The Tucson Children's Museum-A Dream Come True
If anything characterizes the contributions the Foundation has made to the community, it's the Tucson Children's Museum. The Museum averages over 80,000 visitors per year and provides more than 125 hands-on activities for children in 17 diverse subject areas ranging from health care and optics to self-esteem and music.
"If the Foundation had not stepped in when it did, I think there would not be a children's museum in Tucson," says Beth LaRoche-Walkup, former executive director of the Museum. "They brought it together and gave it direction at a very crucial time."
In 1987, the Foundation took the Pima County Medical Society Auxiliary's Human Adventure Center and Southwest Children's Exploratory Center under its wing and created the Tucson Children's Museum. After more than three and a half years of being developed as a community resource by the Foundation, the Museum was separately incorporated in 1991.
The Tucson Children's Museum, which helps young people grow and mature, has itself grown and matured into a promising and self-sufficient community resource for the young and young at heart.
Substance Abuse and Family Issues
One of the Foundation's roles in the community has been to focus attention on issues involving children and families. In fact, the Foundation has served as a catalyst for progress in counteracting gangs, drugs and homelessness. It sponsored public forums on gangs and drugs; fostered education on substance abuse through a training program for local educators, and provided impetus and early funding for a homeless teen project.
In 1991, a forum and workshop on gangs and drugs elevated an issue that up to that time had received little public discussion. A year later, another such forum featured Dr. Lonise Bias, mother of basketball star Len Bias who died from a cocaine overdose two days after signing to play with the Boston Celtics.
The forums, along with the workshop on gangs and drugs, addressed hundreds of students, teachers, parents and counselors. Like other Foundation programs, these public events were a catalyst for further community action.
Indicative of what communities can do is Project Breakthrough, a program that trained 2,000 educators to effectively deal with drug and alcohol abuse in the schools. Initiated by osteopathic physicians in the 1980s, the program recognized that chemical dependency is more than a discipline problem-it's an illness.
The Foundation has commissioned a variety of research studies on osteopathic medicine-related issues. The need for interpretive data was motivated, in part, by a report from the U.S. Bureau of Health Professions indicating that osteopathic medicine will be the fastest growing health care profession in the 1990s-a possible increase of 80 percent by the year 2000.
Of the seven research studies conducted so far, all are valuable in giving direction to current and future community education efforts.