Mission: to advance the health of the people of Wisconsin by supporting medical education and health initiatives.

Foundation fellowship examines correlation between housing instability and health care needs of children in out-of-home care

Each year, the number of children in out-of-home care (foster care) continues to rise. As of May 31, 2019, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families reports more than 8000 children in out-of-home care. A medical student fellowship project funded by the Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation aims to build on well-established associations between unstable housing and health outcomes.

Care4Kids is a voluntary Medicaid program that currently serves over 3000 of the children in out-of-home care in southeastern Wisconsin. This summer, Medical College of Wisconsin medical student Michellai Parks is working with Care4Kids and her mentor Lisa Zetley, MD, on a Foundation-supported research project titled, “Housing Instability among families and caregivers of Children in Foster Care.” The research seeks to assess the housing needs of families and caregivers served by Care4Kids and to connect those with housing insecurities to community resources.

Dr. Zetley is passionate about improving the lives of the children in out-of-home care and is the Consulting Medical Director for Care4Kids Foster Care Medical Home Program of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Medical College of Wisconsin Midtown Pediatrics.

Parks also has great personal interest in this topic. Before entering medical school, Parks volunteered in soup kitchens, food pantries and hospital nurseries. She is interested in not only impacting the patients she treats, but also addressing health disparities on a larger scale. This fellowship project provides her with the opportunity to further her leadership and research skills while positively impacting a vulnerable population in the community.

In the Milwaukee area, high housing costs are a direct contributor to housing instability, and housing instability has been linked to unfavorable health outcomes. The goal of this fellowship project is to assess the scope of housing instability among families involved with foster care.

“This project is quite innovative and will be of great value to help identify whether there are unmet housing needs for foster families and families with children who have recently returned home,” said Dr. Zetley. “Michellai’s interest in measuring housing needs and connecting families to resources could positively impact the health of children enrolled in Care4Kids and potentially decease health care costs.”

Valuable learning experiences such as this fellowship project are only possible through tax-deductible donations to the Foundation’s Fellowship Program and gifts to build the Foundation Fellowship Fund toward ensuring fellowship opportunities for future students.

To add your support, donate online and select “Fellowships” in the optional “requested use of gift” drop-down box. Click here for a list of recent fellowship supporters who you will be joining with your gift.

To help bring interested students and physicians together, the Foundation maintains a database of physician-led research projects with potential for medical student involvement. It also includes physicians who are willing to help a student craft a project related to a specific health topic and serve as their mentor for the approximately eight-week duration of their fellowship. Physicians who wish to be added to the database can complete this form. If you have questions, email Elizabeth Ringle or call her at 608.442.3789. Information about the Foundation’s Fellowship Program may also be found on our website.