Allison Gutierrez, right, receives the United States Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Award from Capt. JoAnne Hitte, an officer in the Commissioned Corps USPHS, on behalf of the Surgeon General of the United States.
Third-year College of Medicine student Allison Gutierrez wasn’t long into her first experiences with patients when she came up with the germ of the idea that became the Mothers and Baby Dragons program.
“I came home from my first night at clinic and was still feeling the high of interacting with my first patients,” explained Gutierrez. She loved interacting with OBGYN patients and wanted to do something more.
That “something more” ended up being Mothers and Baby Dragons, a unique Drexel-based program that aims to help local underserved expecting mothers by connecting them with Drexel medical students for the course of their pregnancy.
To start, students and expecting mothers are paired through Drexel’s Women’s Care Center. The students’ work is two fold: they act almost as health navigators with prenatal visits, providing information resources, and help mothers cope with some realities of their pregnancies like physical, emotional and financial stressors. Students also help mothers have healthy pregnancies by encouraging appropriate weight gain and physical activity, as well as creating meal plans that benefit both mom and baby. Drexel students help out during labor and delivery and continue to support mothers post-partum.
Gutierrez says the program is invaluable for future doctors, too.
“As the program developed, I saw the potential to mold medical students into champions for comprehensive and high-quality obstetric care for underserved patients,” she said. “Medical students become skilled in advocacy, active listening and effective teaching.”
This year, the program matched about 75 mothers with medical students, “and the demand is so high that we are hoping to increase the number of participants,” said Gutierrez.
For this work, Gutierrez was awarded the United States Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Award, which is given to inspire medical students to commit themselves to public health and become leaders in their fields. She was given the award by Capt. JoAnne Hitte, an officer in the Commissioned Corps USPHS, on behalf of the Surgeon General of the United States.
“I never would have thought that this would be the outcome of my idea to start the program,” she said. “It still feels unreal.”
Gutierrez is about to enter her third year of medical school and hopes to become an OBGYN after graduation.
“My exposure to the challenges that vulnerable women in Philadelphia face, and the adversity they have overcome, will inspire me to work even harder as an advocate,” she said. “Now I’m realizing it’s only the beginning.”