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Poverty simulation helps Marshall students reach a new level of empathy

On March 30, 2014

Marshall University medicine, pharmacy and undergraduate students learned what it is like to be completely disadvantaged when trying to make ends meet Friday at a poverty simulation at the Marshall University Foundation Hall.

The event was first opened to medicine and pharmacy students but was later opened to the rest of Marshall’s students.

Dr. Shelvy Campbell, assistant dean for diversity for the School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy, said she wanted the students to get a good feel for the people who are struggling so they can be conscientious when attending to patients who face similar obstacles.

“My goal is for them to understand the plight of someone else,” Campbell said. “I wanted the students to be put in a situation they have never been in. As future physicians and future pharmacists, they’re going to be dealing with individuals that are going to have a hard time paying for their medicine and probably may not show up for their doctor’s appointments because they can’t get to the office. I wanted them to get a feel for that, so as they move out with their humanism in medicine they can be more empathetic to their future patients.”

Dr. Kevin Yingling, dean of the School of Pharmacy, played an active role as a health care provider in the poverty simulation.

“My role was to gauge how many would actually come to the health care clinic,” Yingling said. “Because of the prioritization of really essential needs, as important as healthcare is, it becomes very minor and unfortunately that would force everyone to have emergency care when they would least expect it.”

Reggie Jones, executive director of Pride Community Services based in Logan County, played another active role in the simulation. Jones’s role was to facilitate the simulation and to bring discussions forth during the debriefing session at the end of the simulation.

“We simulated one month of families living in poverty,” Jones said. “It was broken down into four 15 minute weeks and throughout that month, families had to deal with the day-to-day issues that real life families faced with poverty have to deal with. Some examples of that would be securing child care, trying to make ends meet, and looking for jobs.”

After going through the simulation, students said they had a greater appreciation for the people who at or below poverty level. First year medical student Frank Fofie from Maryland said throughout the experience, he had trouble finding the assistance he needed.

“I felt like wherever I went, I constantly wanted and needed someone to help me,” Fofie said. “The main problem was finding help, sometimes I found it and sometimes I didn’t.”

Fofie also said that with his future career, he hopes to be able to do whatever he can to help someone who is struggling because you never know what someone could be going through.

Malak Khader can be contacted at


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