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Dartmouth students in the spring-term course, "Alcohol, Addiction and Health," are developing a serious message for television audiences. A dedicated group of five undergraduates is producing a public service announcement about the deadly results of alcohol abuse.
Filmed in a guest bathroom at the Hanover Inn, the short piece depicts someone slipping into a bathtub full of swimming duck toys, and it's titled "The Unlucky Duck." The message is simple: alcohol can take your life.
"This class has given me a lot to think about in terms of the choices I make," said Lindsey Moore, '02, one of the PSA's producers. She finds the topic rewarding and informative, although not always uplifting. Alcohol, Addiction and Health, an interdisciplinary course, delves into the social, cultural, historical and biological aspects of alcohol use. The class benefits from the expertise of six professors, some from the College and some from the Medical School, and it's been offered at Dartmouth in some form for 11 years. This spring, for the first time, Alcohol, Addiction and Health was both a Dartmouth Medical School elective in psychiatry as well as an undergraduate College course.
As part of the course this year, the students were treated to a guest lecture by C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General, who is the Elizabeth DeCamp McInerny Professor of Surgery at DMS and a senior scholar at the Koop Institute. Moore and fellow students Susan Edwards, Amish Parashar, Richard Efem and Lois Schonberger were motivated by Koop's lecture. They approached him afterward to ask about their community service project, a requirement of the course.
The group met with Koop a few times and decided to create the PSA. With production help from Paul Gennaro at the Koop Institute, the students will distribute the finished product to local television stations. A companion Web site is planned to provide some additional statistics about alcohol abuse and offer resources for people to get help and guidance.
"This class has impressed me with personal stories and intimate facts. What I've learned here will always influence how I view alcohol use," said Moore. "I can't just sit with this knowledge. I feel inspired to share what I've learned and set the record straight about some things." Moore explains that many students don't realize that abuse of alcohol now can have a serious impact on future physiological and mental health.
Gail C. Nelson, Research Associate in Psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical School, has been involved with this course since the beginning, and she looks forward to the community-based public service projects each year. She has seen amazing creativity with these initiatives. There was a slide show about fetal alcohol syndrome presented to a home for young, single mothers; a discussion of alcohol and sexuality for a sorority; a candid videotape produced about recovering from alcoholism shown to students at Hanover High School; and a presentation about alcohol and eating disorders created for residence hall advisors. She is especially excited about the PSA and the unique collaboration with the Koop Institute.
She's also noticed a subtle evolution in how students approach this subject. "Students now seem to have a healthier attitude toward alcohol than they did 11 years ago," she said. "They are more aware of the potential problems, and they are more likely to try and help others they feel may have a problem."
The professors also come away with something. "I've learned about the cultural and ceremonial history of alcohol use," said William Grass, Dartmouth Fellow in Addiction Psychiatry, and one of the many professors of this course. "Alcohol affects cultural systems, and it affects physiological systems, and those two things are interconnected. Understanding this will certainly help as I treat susbstance abuse patients."
Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.