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Doll clinic serves as medical teacher for apprehensive kids

by PETE SPITLER The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

CARBONDALE, Ill. - The patients never cried, winced or showed pain on Thursday at the Patient Development Lab of Lindegren Hall on SIU's campus.

The "parents," on the other hand, did show some emotion when their stuffed animals and baby dolls underwent a battery of tests as part of a doll clinic hosted by the SIU School of Medicine.

"The students seem to get quite a kick out of the things that come out of the little ones," said event coordinator Molly Johnson, an assistant professor with the School of Medicine as she described the children's creativity in describing their dolls ailments.

The children, ages 3 to 5, were from the Carbondale Head Start program. Close to 100 mock examinations were expected to be performed. The examinations included C-rays, splinting for broken limbs, bandages and an injection.

"Anything that I come up with or ask (the children) about, that's usually what (the dolls) have," said Chelsea Fella, a first-year physician assistant from Santa Claus, Ind. "They've had broken bones on top of sore throats, on top of upset stomachs and they've been throwing up.

"So we've had the whole gamut."

The doll clinic gives children the opportunity to observe scary or threatening medical procedures, without being the subject of those procedures.

"It seems like (the children) get a little bit more comfortable with some of the things done in the doctor's office, especially the shots," Fella said. "They all like to get their babies' shots and we would explain to (the children) that it's good and helps them feel better and prevents them from getting sick."

The doll clinic also allows physician assistant students an opportunity to get hands-on interaction with young children while helping them alleviate their fears.

"The kids' imaginations are fun and keep us grounded," said Haley Smith, a physician assistant from Mount Vernon. "I think it desensitizes them to the doctor so they're not as scared."

Among the more interesting ailments the dolls had on Wednesday was one that fell into a volcano and a kangaroo that had "sick energy," according to Smith.

"We had (a child) who completely deadpanned that her doll fell down a volcano," Johnson said.

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