Willmar Medical Students Continue Efforts to Address Community Health Needs

Published in Medical Students

Author: Staff

Many medical students leave lasting impressions on ACMC. This impact is often seen through the projects they complete during their time in the community and at the clinic. Each student is required to chooses an area of interest and develop a program that helps alleviate an issue affecting the community’s health.

When a former medical student, Robin Sautter, noticed the need for fitness intervention in the female Somali population in Willmar, she took action. Robin developed a fitness class that allowed Somali women to work out in a private, comfortable setting. She provided the women with the instruction, equipment, and environment needed to be active, with a goal of improving their overall health.   

Robin ended her rotation as a student with ACMC in the Spring of 2016, but the need for fitness in the Somali female population still exists. This is why Willmar natives and current ACMC medical students, Brooklyn Leitch and Anna Fuglestad, decided to continue the class that Robin started for Somali women. “We decided to take over Robin’s class because it was too important not to,” Brooklyn explained. “We knew the impact these classes had and noticed significant improvements in chronic fatigue and pain in the women that attended.”

Anna was also compelled to continue the class after hearing about Robin’s experience firsthand. Anna had asked Robin many questions when she was preparing for her own RPAP experience. “Robin had such a passion for helping people live healthy lives,” Anna reflected. “She would tell me about how much she loved working with the Somali women.”

The need for the fitness class is multifaceted according to Brooklyn. With modesty being a major factor in the Somali culture, women are unable to participate in the “traditional” gym workout. The fitness class created by Robin allows them to feel comfortable in both the attire and movements needed to achieve results. The class is also designed to accommodate schedules and the abilities of the Somali women.

Growing up in Willmar, both Anna and Brooklyn were aware of the city’s diverse population. But now, as medical students, they can see the challenges facing the different cultures, including the Somali population. The adjustment to a new lifestyle and climate has made it difficult to remain active and still respect their culture. This need sparked the development of the Somali Task Force, a group of Willmar physicians, interpreters and community leaders collaborating to address health care gaps in the community, and opportunities like a fitness class for women to assist in the transition to life in Willmar. “It’s been amazing to see the growth and changes every time I am back in town,” Brooklyn said. “I am excited to rejoin the Willmar community and be a part of that change.”

Anna notices a need for similar assistance to other minority groups in Willmar, especially in regards to their healthcare needs. “Willmar is multicultural compared to a majority of the surrounding towns,” Anna explained. “This means we have unique challenges of providing quality healthcare to a diverse community.”

Both Brooklyn and Anna are glad they are able to be a part of the solution for the population’s health needs. As the exercise class continues, they hope to make it self-sustaining and increase its availability to encourage others to join. They also hope to make a connection with those in the fitness class and the Somali community as a whole. “I get such satisfaction from seeing their smiling faces and hearing them laugh as we exercise together,” Anna said.