REACHing out to help young students succeed

Medical student creates online tutoring program for children of frontline health professionals

By Taylor Utzig 

Like many students this spring, Philip Ghobrial, a third-year medical student (M3) at the Stritch School of Medicine, found himself finishing up his classes online as schools across the country grappled with maintaining academic continuity amid the spread of COVID-19. As he sat on Zoom calls with his instructors, it wasn't uncommon for Ghobrial to see their children appearing on screen, whether to find out when lunch would be ready or ask a question about their homework. After a few of these instances Ghobrial began thinking, “With kids at home and learning remotely, how are faculty juggling the roles of parent, health professional, and instructor?” 

Those questions sparked an idea: to support parents working at Loyola Medicine by offering free, online tutoring support for their children. “I wanted to create a program that would not only relieve them of these additional responsibilities at home,” Ghobrial says, "but also enhance their children’s educational experience and development.”  

“I wanted to create a program that would not only relieve them of these additional responsibilities at home, but also enhance their children’s educational experience and development.” 

In a few short weeks, and with guidance from Dr. Greg Gruener, vice dean for education at Stritch, Ghobrial designed and implemented REACH, Remote Educational Assistance for Children of Healthcare professionals. "During this pandemic, our students have consistently recognized societal and health system needs and rolled up their sleeves to help,” says Gruener. “REACH is a perfect example of Philip’s selfless concern for others and a vivid embodiment of magis, the philosophy of seeking to be greater or better.” 

Within a day launching the REACH program, 60 Stritch students signed up as tutors. And just a few days later, word of the program spread to more than 300 Loyola Medicine health professionals. When Dr. Linda Yang heard the news, she signed up her fifth-grade daughter.  

“It’s been wonderful to have someone on the outside who is objective,” says Yang, who while recognized by her medical students as an outstanding instructor, admits that teaching her own kids is no easy feat. “As a parent, it’s difficult to navigate your own child’s learning style.”  

Yang’s daughter, Amelie, is paired with M2 Jaimie Navid. During their tutoring sessions, Navid spends 30 to 60 minutes on Zoom with Amelie, reviewing math problems and focusing on areas in need of improvement. After only three sessions, Yang believes the tutoring has made a tremendous impact. “There are no tears, no frustration. Jaimie made it very easy,” she says. “Jaimie is incredibly engaging and has been a great help in maintaining Amelie’s online learning.”  

This spring, REACH provided tutoring to 28 children; many continued into the summer months. With online and hybrid learning formats extending into the fall for most Illinois students, and because of the great feedback about the program, Ghobrial plans to continue offering REACH for the foreseeable future. “I hope this program will improve the lives of our health care providers and their children and promote the values and strength of the Loyola community during this challenging time,” says Ghobrial.  

This fall, 75 medical students, from M1s to M4s, signed up as tutors. Ghobrial hopes to expand recruitment to students from Loyola’s School of Nursing and Parkinson School of Health Sciences and Public Health.  

Are you a Loyola University Medical Center employee? Learn more about REACH and register your child for tutoring services. Are you a Loyola student interested in becoming a REACH volunteer? Contact  Philip Ghobrial.