A new children’s book written by an Iowa State University student aims to reduce the fear and anxiety that young children can have when going to the doctor.
“ABC It’s All Medical to Me,” authored by undergraduate kinesiology student Carlee Cutler, walks young readers through medical terms in a way that makes it easy for them to understand.
From “G is for glasses” to “O is for orthodontist” and “V is for vomiting,” the hardcover book combines research and writing vetted by literacy experts and medical professionals, with child-friendly illustrations. Cutler will showcase the book this week as her honors project.
“I know that many children have negative connotations about doctor’s offices and medical settings,” Cutler said. “I hope that my book, once they read it, will help children understand a lot of the processes that go on when they’re visiting the doctor or the dentist, and some of the medical tools they may be seeing and using there. I want to reduce the fear and anxiety so there’s not such a negative connotation.”
Help from educators, medical professionals
The idea for the children’s book came after Cutler, a senior in the community and public health option of kinesiology and health, became involved in undergraduate research in Iowa State’s Neuro-Motor Control Lab and served as the undergraduate teaching assistant for the anatomy and physiology labs. She wanted to do more.
She decided to write the book as her honors capstone project. She wasn’t aware of any other kinesiology student who had attempted a book, but academic adviser Kyle Holtman encouraged her to do so.
Cutler collaborated with Sara Nelson, a postdoctoral scholar of science and literacy in the School of Education, for the project. For the past year, Nelson has guided Cutler through the process of writing a children’s book using vocabulary and messages appropriate for children ages 5 to 8.
“She really tried to infuse voice and energy into her writing, and say things in a way that a young child would take in and understand,” Nelson said. “She coordinated with an illustrator. She worked with an editor from a publishing company. She worked with medical professionals to review the content to make sure it was correct. It took a lot of time, but she had a lot of passion for it. It’s that passion that helps drive you through that whole process.”
Cutler recruited the help of Mary Madsen, a registered nurse and teaching lab coordinator for Iowa State’s anatomy and physiology labs, to review the medical content of her book. Sorority sister Amy Huynh served as the book’s illustrator. Urbandale teachers Steve Pokorny and Lee Anne Cutler, who is Cutler’s mother, also helped, as did two of Cutler’s cousins — one who is an editor and publisher in Minneapolis, and another who is a nurse practitioner in South Dakota.
Next stop: nursing school
Cutler will be one of 34 students presenting their projects at the fall 2017 Honors Poster Presentation, 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6 in the Durham Great Hall of the Memorial Union. She will showcase the hardcover book that she published herself, along with a poster explaining her project.
“On my honors poster, I have a little picture showing how you go to the doctor’s office. You get a shot. And then your mind goes, ‘That’s scary. I don’t want to go back to the doctor’s office,’” Cutler said. “That’s the process even for adults, because adults still carry those nervous tendencies when going to the doctor. So my hope is this book will decrease that anxiety and that fear. If they know what’s coming next, if they know what’s going to happen, I feel that can reduce their worries.”
Copies of the book aren’t available yet, but Cutler has already read it to some children she babysits. She plans to provide copies to those who helped her with the yearlong project. The book will then likely be offered to a few doctors' offices, and potentially submitted for publication.
“As an undergraduate student, this is a project she should really be proud of,” Nelson said. “It’s a really high-level project. To me, it reminded me of a graduate school-type project. This highlights the value of the honors projects and the value of collaborations between undergraduates, faculty, and staff.”
Cutler is scheduled to graduate from Iowa State in May 2018 after interning next spring at Green Hills Retirement Community in Ames, teaching fitness classes and conducting assessments. She’s had lots of experience with group fitness, having taught kickboxing, aqua, cycling, pilates, boxing, and yoga while at Iowa State. After graduation, Cutler plans to attend nursing school at Mercy College in Des Moines. She hopes to someday specialize in neonatology and women’s health, working with high-risk pregnancies.
“Throughout my four years here, all our professors say broaden your horizons. Don’t pick just one population to work with. You need to experience all of them,” said Cutler, who has also been a certified nursing assistant since her senior year in high school. “Knowing that in my future in my nursing career, I want to specialize in women and children, I thought, this is the perfect time to get more experience with gerontology and the older population. And I also love teaching group fitness.”