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Release: April 27, 2001

MOMS program helps UI medical students learn from expectant mothers' point of view

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A program at the University of Iowa College of Medicine is helping first-year medical students develop their bedside manner and understand what it is like to be a prenatal patient. Maternity Observation for Medical Students (MOMS) matches expectant mothers with medical students to give the mothers a sense of support and help students develop patient relationship skills.

The MOMS program originally was designed by Sonja Erickson, former UI associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and the Leopold Society, an obstetrics and gynecology interest group. The program allows first-year medical students to form their first relationship with a patient, although they are not given hands-on medical responsibility. Their participation is strictly as observers, said Wendy Hansen, M.D., UI professor (clinical) of obstetrics and gynecology and faculty advisor for MOMS.

"Even though the students might start MOMS out of curiosity, they usually become a great comfort to the family," Hansen said. "It's so much fun to watch them grow as they begin to understand the prenatal process."

The students are matched with a pregnant woman and commit to being a part of the pregnancy, including attending all prenatal appointments and being available at the time of delivery. The program is entirely a volunteer effort for both mothers and students, and no credit is given on the student's academic record.

"Students who make this commitment must be very dedicated because the program involves a lot of their time, and mothers often deliver during the summer before the student's second year in medical school," Hansen said.

Erin Evers, a first-year UI medical student, currently is enrolled in the program. Evers feels MOMS is a valuable program because it helps students determine their level of interest in obstetrics early on in their academic career. Evers wonders what her comfort level would be during deliveries.

"Because I have the opportunity to view a birth, I will know early on if obstetrics is a field I might like to pursue," she said.

Evers is paired with a second-time mother who is more than 32 weeks into her pregnancy. Evers has attended one appointment with her patient and learned about what obstetricians look for during prenatal appointments. Her favorite part of the program is talking about patient charts and patient history with Hansen.

"Dr. Hansen is an excellent instructor who shares her own personal experiences as a physician and a patient," Evers said.

Sarah Brown, a second-year UI medical student from Coralville, participated in the MOMS program last year. For Brown, as for many participants, it was the first time she was allowed to interact with a patient. She was paired with a couple who eventually delivered their first child last July. Brown attended all the couple's prenatal visits and was present during the birth.

"It was a great opportunity to see what goes on from both the patient's and physician's point of view," Brown said. "I enjoyed MOMS so much, I would have done it even if it took more of my time."

The UI College of Nursing offers a similar experience to its nursing students as a part of their pediatric and clinical experience. While nursing students are not expected to make as large a time commitment, they also learn about the prenatal and postpartum experience.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.