"Will you wear your bike helmet every time you ride?" medical student Jerica Lomax asked 7-year-old Marisa Salas as she adjusted a shiny new helmet to fit Marisa's head. She nodded vigorously.
"Do you know why you wear a helmet?"
"I could fall and hit my head."
Indeed. Bicycle accidents are the leading cause of sports-related concussions in American children. But only 15 percent of kids wear helmets.
Students at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth are working to change that. During the past year, more than 700 donated helmets have been distributed to Fort Worth children at no cost, and fitted by Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine student doctors.
Lomax's work at a recent school health fair, where she helped fit 70 helmets, typifies TCOM students' dedication to creating healthier communities.
That dedication is why they consistently win national awards for community service beyond curriculum requirements. In the most recent tally, 21 TCOM students earned Gold Awards from the TOUCH program, meaning they served 100 hours or more beyond TCOM's requirements. Also, 56 students earned Silver Awards for working 50-plus additional hours.
During that period, TCOM students in the TOUCH program logged 7,066 hours of community service -- equivalent to 883 eight-hour days.
At the school health fair where Lomax helped fit helmets, families had lined up long before the doors opened to receive free helmets that retail for $27. "I wouldn't be able to afford them," said Patsy Segovia, who brought her children ages 3, 4, 6 and 7 to be fitted.
Helmets are donated by the Tarrant County Medical Alliance and the Texas Medical Association and are distributed at various Fort Worth events where TCOM students show the youngsters how to wear the helmet and be safe on their bikes. "We would not be able to do this program without the TCOM students," said Pennie Ellis, who chairs the project for the alliance.
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