Every third Saturday of the month, a group of UConn medical students, at least one community physician, members of the public, and usually a few dogs gather at Elizabeth Park in West Hartford for a walk that is healthy in more ways than one.
It starts at the Pond House with the physician giving a brief presentation about a health topic. Then the group sets off for a one-mile loop through the park, encouraged to continue the conversation with the physician and future physicians along the way.
The students have their own chapter of the national organization Walk With a Doc, which resumed its regular schedule in the summer of 2021 after a COVID-19 hiatus, during which they kept the walks going virtually.
The next one is Saturday, Oct. 21, at 9 a.m., and the students invite anyone to walk with them. Dr. Michael Steinberg, UConn Health internal medicine physician, will discuss how physical activity can help delay or prevent cognitive decline and dementia. No registration is necessary.
“The No. 1 benefit is the health benefit of walking,” says Corbinian Wanner, one of two executive directors of the UConn School of Medicine chapter. “Additionally, citizens and students have the opportunity to listen to a relevant health topic, which can potentially result in them learning helpful information that they as patients can bring up to their primary physician.”
Dr. Adam Perrin, associate professor of family medicine and director of student wellness, is a frequent faculty attendee.
“Our host students spur on the conversation over the course of the walk, and all involved appreciate the sense of community created,” Perrin says. “The student organizers of this activity deserve great appreciation for their efforts, and for their willingness to sacrifice half of a free Saturday once a month. These students understand the great value of exercise, community, social connection and medical education, all of which is delivered by Walking with a Future Doc.”
A typical walk draws between 15 and 20 members of the public depending on the weather. The walks take place year-round. Rain date is generally the fourth Saturday of the month.
“We welcome people of all ages,” Wanner says. “The topics of conversation lead by the physician impact patients of a wide range. As such, topics are relevant for everyone!”
The students joining Wanner on the chapter’s leadership board are Elias Mullane, Javier Licardie, Jimin Shin, Amita Bose, Isha Walawalkar, Justin Salm, Priya Gupta, Felicia Tanu, and Lavanya Sambaraju. Dr. Wynee Lou, assistant professor of medicine, is their faculty director.
“These students understand the great value of physical exercise in a welcoming environment, and the fact that immersing oneself in the natural beauty of Elizabeth Park goes a long way to enhance participants’ physical and spiritual wellness,” Perrin says.
Wanner, a 2025 MD/MPH candidate, notes an added benefit for the students.
“Listening to the walkers who join us share their experiences can give perspective outside a clinical setting and reminds us that it is extremely important to always take on patient care with a holistic approach,” he says.