By Wendy Sarubbi | December 1, 2014 3:52 pm

First year medical Student Nicole Spitzer helped a 13-year-old named Devon pick out and glue colorful feathers to a paper headband while fellow first-year M.D. student Petros Svoronos battled in an Xbox game with another teen. On the other side of the Child Life Playroom, a youngster named Luke built towers of wooden blocks with Jay Kamdar, a second year medical student, and laughed as the buildings tumbled to the floor. The young patients smiled, focused on their play and projects and forgot about medications and treatments for a while.

The play is all part of the College of Medicine’s Pediatric Interest Group (PIG) monthly volunteer visit to Nemours Children’s Hospital in Lake Nona, where medical students interact with patients and try to bring back some normalcy by allowing the children time to just be kids.

“It is easy as medical students to get buried in the studying and forget about the other things in life. Spending time with the children at Nemours helps put things in perspective and helps us gain a understanding of those that we will treat,” said Jackie Babbs, a second-year medical student and one of the 50 PIG members.

Each month, students set up a theme for arts and crafts projects, often leaving materials so children can do artwork when the event is done. November’s theme was Thanksgiving, and featured a feathered headband project. Nemours volunteers and parents looked on as the children — some still dressed in their hospital gowns — concentrated on squeezing out just the right amount of glue onto their headbands and smiled proudly as they donned their new creations.

Many of the medical students are interested in going into pediatric medicine and volunteering gives them a chance to learn about the needs of young patients. “Interacting with the kids has been wonderful,“ said Babbs, “Being in the hospital often strips them (kids) of the basic things that most children get to enjoy so we are try to fill that gap by bringing activities to them.”

Nemours Child Life Specialist Samantha Garrett said the activities help keep the young patients engaged. “The kids find it enjoyable, therapeutic and creative,” she said, “to develop art with liked-minded med students.”

In addition to volunteering at Nemours once a month, the Pediatric Interest Group also does volunteer work at Camp Boggy Creek, Give Kids the World, Harbor House and the Ronald McDonald House.

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