Public school classes will resume in a few weeks and so will the Coffee with the Doctor talks at Dundalk Elementary School.
The talks are a chance for Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a visiting internist from the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, to meet with parents to discuss health-related subjects such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma, and how diet and exercise can play a role in managing them.
The talks are part of a Hopkins program called Medicine for the Greater Good.
Started in 2013, the goal is for young doctors in the program to connect with lower-income neighborhoods in Baltimore City and Dundalk.
Studies show that people living in areas of poverty, drug use and unemployment are statistically likely to die sooner than people living in more affluent, less stressed areas.
The programs offers health fairs, blood pressure screenings and help with how to access the complex medical system services.
Galiatsatos, who is a co-director, says the program is also a way for young doctors in training to get to know their patients as people and to better understand the communities they live in, all of which helps them do a better job treating patients.
“It actually heps us engage with our patients,” he said.
Community work is now a requirement of the residency program at Hopkins, and the idea has spread to other schools in Hopkins University, including medicine, nursing and business.
Galiatsatos, who grew up in Highlandtown and Rosedale and has relatives in Dundalk, is no stranger to the area.
He has happy memories of going with his family to Jimmy’s Seafood after baptisms at the St. Nicholas Orthdox church and picking up a chocolate donut during Saturday shopping trips to Mars.
This year he plans to work with teachers at Dundalk Elementary to expand the ongoing visits with discussions about mental health issues.
“Parents really enjoy Dr. G’s presentations,” said Christina Johnson, a counselor at Dundalk Elementary. “After each parent coffee, we hand out a survey to the parents and they always give Dr. G the best ratings. They are looking forward to his return in the fall.”
Dundalk Elementary is is now also included in the program’s B’more Asthma Free initiative, which helps parents help children with asthma.
Several years ago, Medicine for the Greater Good also connected with the Turner Station community, which was initially skeptical because of the way Hopkins used cancerous cells from resident Henrietta Lacks in the early 1950s without her knowledge.
Lacks died in 1951, and the cells were later used to conduct groundbreaking research.
Doctors worked with St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Turner Station with a nutrition and weight loss program to help deal with heart disease, he said. The goal was to collectively lose 1,000 pounds.
Two years ago, doctors also hosted two different talks about health issues with members of Dundalk United Methodist Church.
Part of the Medicine for the Greater Good program is to recruit volunteers from churches — “lay educators” — to act as bridges between a congregation and the medical community.
Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings spoke to doctors at Bayview about the program in May.
“It connects you with the people you’re trying to help,” he said. “You get a better sense of who they are.”
For more information, visit www.medicineforthegreatergood.com or search for the group on Facebook.