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UCSF Students Offer Health Services, Counseling to Custodial Staff

By Robin Hindery

School of Pharmacy student Phyllis Gayda explains hypertension and cholesterol tests to senior custodian Rachele Holmes at UCSF’s first interprofessional health fair on Friday, Feb. 13.

Dozens of volunteers from UCSF’s schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy came together recently for the University’s first interprofessional health fair, targeting a group on campus whose irregular hours often prevent them from participating in such events. The Feb. 13-14 event “Healthy Hearts, Healthy Smiles” offered UCSF’s nighttime custodians free health counseling and services, including blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose screenings; flu shots; asthma inhaler tutorials; and special rooms dedicated to gender-specific health concerns. In addition, on Feb. 14, UCSF dental students provided free dental screenings for the custodians and their family members, while other volunteers led health-oriented games and science demonstrations. “There have been fairs before with participation from multiple schools, but never anything like this, where they all came together,” said Chris Cullander, PhD, associate dean of student and curricular affairs in the School of Pharmacy, who helped oversee the event. “This really was student-initiated. They picked it up and ran with it, and more and more people jumped on the bandwagon.” The fair, which took place on UCSF’s Parnassus campus, was an opportunity to serve an often-overlooked segment of the University staff, but also a chance for students from various schools to learn from one another, Cullander said. “The students were set up in interprofessional teams [at the fair], so they could observe each other’s practices,” he said. Shirin Mullen, a second-year dental student, said such interaction between the schools was good preparation for the real world. “Usually, you just know how your own classmates take blood pressure or measure blood glucose,” she said during a rare quiet moment on the first day of the health fair. “We’ll have to interact with each other in the field, so why not start now?”

School of Medicine student Sona Bekmezian participates in UCSF’s first interprofessional health fair on Friday, Feb. 13.

“We’re getting a different perspective here,” said second-year pharmacy student Walter Valdes. “I wish it would happen more often.” The custodians appeared to agree. “I’ve never been to anything like this at UCSF – it’s a beautiful setup,” said Michael, a custodian at the Mission Bay campus for the past three years who asked to be identified by his first name. He said he had received a full physical a few weeks earlier, but wanted to do some of the tests again because “it can’t hurt to reaffirm what was already done.” For others, the health fair was the first time they had received certain medical services. “This is my first shot since I was little,” said Jose Castaneda, a custodian who looked a bit nervous as he waited in line with 12 others for his first-ever flu shot. The initial idea for the health fair stemmed from several groups of UCSF pharmacy students who had participated frequently in similar events, including those organized by the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists, the UCSF chapter of the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the Student National Pharmaceutical Association. Representatives from those groups reached out to the other schools, and the list of volunteers grew rapidly, Cullander said. In addition to the students, a number of professors and postdoctoral scholars from the different schools donated their time to serve as supervisors at the health fair. Organizers said they thought “Healthy Hearts, Healthy Smiles” was a big success, and one that should serve as a model for future fairs. “I think it is a fantastic way for all students to work together on an important cause,” said Dena Bushman, a first-year student in the UCSF Master’s Entry Program in Nursing, who helped recruit 18 other nursing student volunteers. “This event allowed students from all disciplines to learn about the various skill sets, resources and opportunities present in each school, and also gave students the opportunity to meet each other, which rarely happens.” “It’s a very small step,” Cullander added, “but I hope it’s the first step of many toward interprofessional practice and collaboration.” UCSF has been working to foster innovation and collaboration across the campus. In fact, the UCSF Strategic Plan, released in June 2007, specifically calls on the University to “develop innovative, collaborative approaches for education, health care and research that span disciplines within and across health sciences.” Among the strategies is to “ensure that students and trainees are immersed in a culture that embraces interdisciplinary, interprofessional and transdisciplinary educational programs.”

Photos by Susan Merrell

Related Links:

Expanding Opportunities for Interprofessional Education at UCSF
UCSF Today, Oct. 22, 2007

UCSF Works to Expand Interprofessional Education
UCSF Today, April 26, 2007