University of Connecticut medical, dental, nursing and pharmacy students joined forces with Quinnipiac University physician assistant students and community clinicians for a week themed “Voices for Primary Care.” This team-driven effort to give back to communities across Connecticut mirrors the teamwork that students pursuing primary care will participate in throughout their careers.
The week’s events kicked off with a banquet at the Artists’ Collective on Monday. On Wednesday, 11 community health fairs across the state aimed to educate and give back to the public. “Lunch and Learn” sessions continue all week at the three involved campus’ locations in Farmington, Storrs and Hamden.
This year’s student leaders for the Primary Care Week community health fairs are second-year medical student Hien Le and third-year pharmacy student Kaitlyn Herman, both of whom participated in the health fairs last year and are Urban Service Track Scholars.
Le says that events such as the community health fairs are an opportunity for students from different aspects of health care to work together. “It’s an opportunity to gain exposure as an interdisciplinary team, which is how we will deliver care to our patients.”
“The patient’s care isn’t just one person’s responsibility,” says Herman. “It’s a team of different specialties that come together for the teamwork needed for that patient.”
Dr. Bruce E. Gould, associate dean for primary care at the UConn School of Medicine and director of the Connecticut Area Health Education Center, is the faculty advisor involved with the community health fairs.
“We, as primary care providers, need to go beyond the doors of the clinic. We need to look at why our patients don’t or can’t do what we want them to do. Just having an insurance card does not mean you will have access to the health care you need,” says Gould.
“In primary care, there is a continuous relationship with your patient,” says Le, who is considering specializing in internal medicine. “You have the opportunity to look at what a patient’s day to day life consists of.”
“My first question to a patient is open ended: How can I help you today? I’m a doctor, but I am also a teacher. I teach patients every day because if they don’t understand, how will they be able to own their illness? It’s a little bit of an art form to tailor your message in a way that your patient will be able to understand,” says Gould.
Each of the health fairs benefited members of the community with a variety of health concerns, similar to a primary care office. Participants had the opportunity to have their blood glucose levels and their blood pressure screened. They were provided with health education materials for heart health, diabetes prevention, nutrition, oral care and medication interaction.
“The patients that we saw were very excited. They were enthusiastic and asked questions that they may not usually have the chance to ask,” says Herman.
“That’s the best part of health fairs,” adds Le. “They come here voluntarily, so they really want to be here.”
“We all see unmet needs around us. Our goal is to train future practitioners who will see those needs and instead of thinking ‘that’s not my job,’ make it their job. Getting students involved with giving back to the community early in their careers teaches them not only the importance, but how to actually organize and pull the pieces together,” says Gould. “I’m a believer that if everyone did a little to help the community, it would be a better world.”