A Brotherhood of Electricians Meets a New Class of Students

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers Spring 2011

Pharmacy students offer free health services and screenings for union members in an annual heath fair as part of their commitment to the profession of pharmacy.

For Kimberly Griego, PharmD, RPh, CGP, her annual health fair is a big deal. Dr. Griego’s PopularCare Pharmacy Services is contracted with the employer group, International Brotherhood of Electric Workers (IBEW) Local 269, to provide consulting services. Paramount among these services is a health fair held annually for the members of the union. The fair has been going on for the past decade.

For the past several years, Dr. Griego has been joined by Donna Feudo, RPh, BSPharm, and the students of her Community Practice Management course at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University in New Brunswick/ Piscataway, New Jersey. For students, it is a unique opportunity to work in the community and experience a long-standing health fair and meet its participants.

Each year, this health fair offers free health screenings and other services, such as influenza vaccinations, for the members of the IBEW Local 269. The last health fair was held on October 23, 2010 in the IBEW building in Trenton, New Jersey, from 10 am to 3 pm Here is our review of how the day unfolded and our comments on the value of such a health fair.

Getting Started

Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy students arrived early to help set up for the health fair. As the clock struck 10 am, the doors were opened to all union members and their families. As they entered the building, the union members were greeted by the pharmacy students who manned each station. The union members were each registered and assigned to a personal escort, a pharmacy student whose responsibility was to help the member navigate the various tables and stations that comprised the health fair.

First up, union members and their families, if present, answered questions about their current health and any medications they were taking. After this brief questionnaire, union members were escorted to the blood pressure screening station, where pharmacy students equipped with stethoscopes and sphygmomanometers awaited them. Following this exam, they were taken to the cholesterol/blood sugar table, where they had their blood taken by a nurse and processed by pharmacy students.

Next, union members were escorted to a body composition table where their height, weight, and waist circumference were recorded by a technician. With the aid of the appropriate technology and using the collected data, pharmacy students determined the patients’ body mass index, total body fat, total body water, and percent body fat.

For union members who were elderly or felt that they needed to check their bone density, there was a station for that process as well. Here, Dr. Cann, who generously supplied all the equipment for the health fair, provided bone density readings. Next, the patients had their cardiovascular risk calculated by pharmacy students and technicians who also counseled the patients on therapeutic lifestyle modifications that could be adopted to improve quality of life. Lastly, patients were advised by pharmacy students on how to take their medications properly.

At about noon, the health fair saw an influx of union members and their families who came for the sole purpose of getting their annual flu shot. This was done efficiently with the use of a lottery system and preregistration. For the past 2 years, pharmacists have been able to vaccinate in the state of New Jersey; pharmacists were on hand to administer these vaccinations.

Beyond Health Screenings

The fair was not limited to health screenings. Rather, there were several other tables that tended to the needs of these union members. One such station helped patients relax through the teachings of tai chi and reiki, and attendants gave massages. Another station displayed candies and stress balls, which the pharmacy students handed out. Other tables exhibited therapeutic scented oils, while another table promoted dental health with patient education brochures.

As for the members of the IBEW Local 269 who participated in this health fair, what were their thoughts? As pharmacy students, we wanted to explore their reactions to this health fair. One patient who had been coming to the health fair for the last 4 years found it much more convenient than visiting the doctor—and also felt it freed up valuable time for doctors to tend to patients with more serious problems. A 7-year veteran of the health fair said it offered him “a general awareness of my total health.”

Perhaps the most moving comment came from the patient who saw it as his duty to attend the health fair as a member of the union. He explained, “I am a member of the 269 and as a member I have a responsibility to follow up on my health and keep up with it when these events are offered. That’s why I came, that’s why I’ve come for the last 10 years.”

Students’ Point of View

And what about the students who aided in the running of the health fair? They felt the entire experience was a reward in and of itself. As one put it, “It’s always been my dream to help people, and what better way than by providing these services to such fine individuals?”

In today’s age, where so often the grind of our daily lives takes priority, it is refreshing to see a small group of students willing to set aside their time to help these union workers. The profession of pharmacy is trying to shake off the perception of being merely glorified pill counters. In a time when people’s good opinion, once lost, is lost forever, it is reassuring that the finer points of our chosen profession—that is, compassion and integrity tempered by intelligence, but not dominated by it—are still present in the coming tide of pharmacy students.

As this batch of students move on to other facets of their pharmacy careers, be assured that there will always be a new group of students eager to take up the banner and ready to show the world the extent to which pharmacists are willing to serve and how steadfast pharmacists are in their resolve to help. %u25CF

Mr. Ha and Mr. Hu are PharmD candidates at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey.

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