Luis Perez, Lions' senior vice president and CFO, presents Dr. Maryjean Schenk with a personalized jersey to mark the partnership.
Perez and Dr. Schenk team up in their gifts to commemorate the signing of the agreement.
Flanking Dr. Schenk and Perez for the celebration are, from left, student Tanya Troy; student Tim Jelsema; Dr. Dana Rice; Jasmine Grotto, Lions Corporate Communications and Community Relations; Robert Wooley, director of Community Relations and Detroit Lions Charities; and Dr. Juliann Binienda.
In a partnership that’s the first of its kind between a National Football League franchise and a university medical school, the Detroit Lions and WSU School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences will work with Detroit residents, especially children, to teach methods to improve health, conduct health fairs and plan other programs, event and activities.
“Having a highly respected academic resource like the Wayne State University School of Medicine further validates our Living for the City health and wellness efforts,” said Tom Lewand, Detroit Lions president. “This partnership will also strengthen the impact that we both have in our community.”
Launched in 2012, the Detroit Lions Living for the City supports transformational efforts that improve the well-being of metropolitan Detroit’s underserved. The initiative supports organizations that pursue integrated approaches to physical fitness, healthy eating, housing, land use and environmental planning, public transportation and community infrastructure.
Lions representatives and Maryjean Schenk, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., vice dean of Medical Education, signed the documents cementing the partnership at the School of Medicine on Nov. 11, the day after the Lions beat the Chicago Bears.
“Given the school of medicine’s mission, this partnership fits right in,” said Dr. Schenk, who presented Luis Perez, the Lions’ senior vice president and chief financial officer, with a School of Medicine sweatshirt to commemorate the agreement signing. “This pairs our medical students with the youth in the community to improve health. Everybody benefits from that.”
Perez in turn presented Dr. Schenk with a personalized Lions game jersey emblazoned with her name and the number 1.
Following the launch of Living for the City, Dana Rice, Dr.P.H., research associate of family medicine and public health sciences, and spouse of former Detroit Lions safety Ron Rice, began meeting with team officials to discuss ways in which the department could partner with the community program.
“Based on those conversations, we both felt that the relationship between our major academic medical institution and our local NFL team could only enhance both missions,” said Dr. Rice, who will take the lead on the affiliation for the WSU School of Medicine.
The school joined Living for the City as part of the federally-funded Bridges to Equity program, which is housed in the Family Medicine Department. Bridges to Equity develops and implements educational programming to engage medical students in inter-professional collaboration with public health students and faculty on community-based projects to reduce health disparities.
“This collaborative effort will provide another structured active learning approach for the students in this area as well as an opportunity for faculty and staff to share their expertise and knowledge on a variety of public health and medical issues with the Detroit Lions and their partners,” said Juliann Binienda, Ph.D., assistant professor of family medicine and public health sciences, and principal investigator of the school’s Bridges to Equity program.
To date, School of Medicine students have participated in the Detroit Lions’ 2012 Hometown Huddle, which took place at the Detroit Lions Academy, and was a major partner for the 2013 Meet Up & Eat Up at Eastern Market. The program taught children how to shop for and eat healthier foods.
"We have a ton of students who like to volunteer, but when I threw in the name 'Detroit Lions' (in an email seeking volunteers) within five minutes we had twice as many volunteers as we needed,” said Tim Jelsema, a medical student participating in Living for the City activities. “The events create a springboard of education for younger students.”
Tanya Troy, a student in the master’s of public health degree program, agreed.
“This is really a great opportunity for students to get out and talk about nutrition and healthy eating,” she said. “You can plan to do that all you want, but doing it is much different. We get to work with young people and get accustomed to it.”