Banafsheh Sharif-Askary and friends, HART Program

Duke School of Medicine student Banafsheh Sharif-Askary received a grant to start the Health, Advocacy and Readiness for Teens (HART) program with partners Bull City Fit and Healthy Lifestyles. The program aims to equip young people with tools and resources to help them lead healthier lives and learn behaviors that will continue into adulthood.

She was among 19 Duke students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2016-17 for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor was Sarah Armstrong. Below are excerpts from her final report with collaborator Alexandra Paul:

Our programming includes teen-specific group sessions at Bull City Fit focused on three main values: nutrition, exercise and healthcare navigation. Additionally, we provide one-on-one mentorship for support, encouragement and guidance throughout the program. The curriculum has a specific focus on expanding the breadth of resources, approaches and options available to teens as they transition to life as young adults.

We hope to continue our program for many years to come and expand to reach more teens. The cooking classes were a big hit, and something that the teens and parents learned a lot from, so that will continue to be part of scheduled programming. We will also continue to have fitness sessions, but these will take a less formal format, and can be more individualized. The mentorship model will be more individualized as well.

The Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grant was a crucial component of starting HART and ensuring that we had the necessary resources to serve our teens. The challenges of beginning a new program were offset by the steady support from the Duke University School of Medicine, as well as our partners at Bull City Fit and the Healthy Lifestyles clinic. We believe that our project positively impacted the community but that there is still substantial room to grow.

In the future, we hope that HART continues to become more integrated in the Durham community, shifting form and accommodating the various needs of our young teen population. Personally, HART has challenged us to be more flexible, thoughtful and accountable and we believe that these qualities will better equip us to be high-quality patient-oriented clinicians.

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

See who received these grants for 2017-18, and read about other 2016-17 recipients’ experiences:

Images: Alexandra Paul and and Banafsheh Sharif-Askary (left); participants and volunteers in a cooking class (upper and lower right)