Tennessee: Meharry Medical College Programs Build Up Teenagers

Meharry Medical College is investing in the future of Nashville's teenagers with two new initiatives aimed at improving their health and career outcomes.

The Meharry Youth Wellness Center (MYWC) began offering preventive health services to teens last fall with startup funding of $417,000; a doctor-staffed clinic is scheduled to open in January. The goal is to fill a void for adolescents who have either aged out of pediatric care or do not see a provider regularly.

Services offered at MYWC include smoking cessation, sexual responsibility/rape prevention, suicide awareness, alcohol and drug relapse prevention, anger management, and general fitness advice. Once the medical component opens, it will offer STD treatment, physical exams, and sick visits.

As of mid-December, MYWC had served about 20 young people, many of whom were referred by probation officers. The center's goal is to reach more than 400 youths.

"We don't turn anyone away," said Freida H. Outlaw. "Any adolescent who comes in this door, we will work with them."

The college also has launched a five-year health career effort, using $1.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health-administered Science Education Partnership Awards program. Meharry has partnered with Whites Creek and Glencliff public high schools, sponsoring a freshman-year trip to 1704 Charlotte Ave. -- home to MYWC and the Youth Opportunity Center, Oasis College Connection, and other youth-oriented agencies.

"That's what's so special about this place. It's like a shopping center," said Outlaw. MYWC also can serve as a gateway to higher education: Outlaw has already referred a teenage father to college counselors.