Recognizing the community need for stroke public education and awareness, the UCLA Stroke Force was formed in 1996 under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Sidney Starkman, Head of UCLA Emergency Neurology and Emergency Medicine Director of the UCLA Stroke Center. In the Stroke Force program, undergraduate premedical students undergo specialized training in stroke and then serve as speakers who reach out to various communities. The students receive academic credit for participation in the program. To date, more than 120 students have participated in the program, delivering over 300 lectures to over 7000 individuals. Formal testing has demonstrated that these presentations are highly effective, resulting in a significant increase in post-education stroke awareness.
Each semester, 25 undergraduate premedical students participate in the UCLA Stroke Force Program, including 2 senior students who serve as administrative leaders of the program. These undergraduates regularly give presentations at community centers, retirement homes, and adult-education sites to educate the public on stroke warning signs and emergency response procedures. The program is highly selective and rigorous; approximately 225 applications are received each year for 6 open slots.
A distinctive challenge to public education regarding stroke awareness and warning signs is the diversity of the population of the County of Los Angeles. Over 130 languages spoken in the home in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The undergraduate population at UCLA reflects this diversity, with many second generation representatives who bridge immigrant and American cultures. The UCLA Stroke Force consequently provides a unique educational resource. Before and during the cycle 1 Award period, individual Stroke Force premedical students gave part or all of their stroke awareness presentations to cultural and ethnic groups in the multi languages: such as Armenian, Farsi, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, and Spanish.