UNE students share reflections on fourth and final day of their week-long rural health immersion in Midcoast Maine

Third year pharmacy student Neva Gross gets ready to take a group selfie at the top of Mt. Battie in Camden, ME

Third year pharmacy student Neva Gross gets ready to take a group selfie at the top of Mt. Battie in Camden, ME

Thirteen UNE health professions students recently participated in a week long rural health immersion in Midcoast Maine.  The immersion experience is a part of a pipeline program with Maine’s Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program and UNE’s Center for Excellence in Health Innovation (CEHI) to address healthcare provider shortages in rural Maine.  This is the third immersion experience that the Maine AHEC and CEHI have provided for UNE students; last May medical, pharmacy, and dental students participated in a weeklong immersion in Aroostook County and last March medical and nursing students participated in a weeklong immersion in Franklin County.  In this immersion students were split into interprofessional teams consisting of medical, pharmacy, nursing, and dental students.   The students experienced a variety of clinical and community activities in underserved areas in Knox and Waldo county.  Below are reflections from one team after the fourth and final day in the Midcoast area on May 24th, 2017.

Curtis Jensen, owner of Jensen's pharmacy in Rockland talks about his experience of owning a private pharmacy.

Curtis Jensen, owner of Jensen’s pharmacy in Rockland talks about his experience of owning a private pharmacy.

Sara Stafford (third year pharmacy student)

Today was sadly our last day of the rural health immersion. After breakfast at Dots and driving to the top of Mount Battie, we had the opportunity to visit the local YMCA in Rockport and Rockland. We were able to check blood pressure on many of the residents of the area, pass out pedometers and give them information on the File of Life. Nearly everyone we talked to had never heard of the File of Life and giving them the opportunity to have all of their information available in the event that something happened to them where a health care professional would need that information in their home made me feel like I was really making a difference. Aside from the health screenings, we also got to talk with many of the local residents about their experiences in the health care system in their area. It was interesting to hear about the different experiences, with some of them being very negative and some of them being positive. After learning so much about rural health care in the past week, I felt like I was able to relate those negative experiences with the barriers that are presented in an area with such limited resources. After interacting with so many health care professionals, it was wonderful to be able to talk with the actual patients and hear about their experiences in the same system. Whether you’re a provider or a patient, everyone experiences shortcomings in this area and that needs to be recognized by more people.

After visiting the YMCA and eating lunch at Clan MacLaren, we visited Jensen’s Pharmacy in Rockland. As a pharmacy student, this was a great chance to see how a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy fits in to rural health care. Throughout this week, I had been wondering how a pharmacist could make a difference in a rural community and I felt like this experience gave me some answers to that. Unlike some of the other community pharmacies I have seen, there seemed to be more collaboration between the pharmacist and the physician, which is essential for good patient care. In addition to the enhanced patient care at this pharmacy, I was surprised to see more advanced technology being used in such a rural setting. The technology they had available for counting medication and keeping records not only benefits their business but also ensures their accuracy.

Not only today, but throughout the entire immersion, I was so thankful to be able to work with students from other professional programs; it was amazing to hear their different perspectives and get to know such great people that I would have otherwise not known. Whether it was their respective discipline or just the people that I was able to share this experience with, I have never been so passionate about doing more interdisciplinary outreach and will definitely continue to seek out the opportunities to do so.

UNE students and faculty attend a weeklong rural health immersion in Midcoast Maine (L-R, Row 1 Nancy Simpson, Purvi Patel, Molly Callnan, Emma Mason, Brandi Sargent, Cassidy Carpenter, Row 2 Jennifer Gunderman, Jason Greenbaum, Matthew Fiorilo, Sara Stafford, Kurdistan Pishdary, Heather Curran, Abby Golash, Neva Gross, Katelyn Van Leir , Ian Imbert)

UNE students and faculty attend a weeklong rural health immersion in Midcoast Maine (L-R, Row 1 Nancy Simpson, Purvi Patel, Molly Callnan, Emma Mason, Brandi Sargent, Cassidy Carpenter, Row 2 Jennifer Gunderman, Jason Greenbaum, Matthew Fiorilo, Sara Stafford, Kurdistan Pishdary, Heather Curran, Abby Golash, Neva Gross, Katelyn Van Leir , Ian Imbert)

Neva Gross (third year pharmacy student)

What can I say about this final day? The first three days have been packed with so many eye-opening experiences, how much more could possibly happen on our final day? Well, our chosen breakfast location did just that. After a brief stop at a local spot called Dots to pick up breakfast to-go, we hiked up Mount Battie….Hmmmm correction, the van did the hiking for us then we jumped out and took some pictures of the awesome view (but that was MY perfect kind of hiking).

Our mission today was to offer free health screenings at two local YMCAs, which actually means Young Men’s Christian Association. After doing a bit of research about the YMCA, I learned that the founder (George Williams) wanted to focus on developing a healthy “mind, body, & spirit”. This is actually represented as the three sides of the red triangle in their logo. Mr.Williams would definitely be proud of the PenBay YMCA in Rockport, ME for their absolutely beautiful building and wide range of services that they offer to the members of the community.  We were fortunate enough to be able to offer blood pressure checks from our College of Osteopathic Medicine and Nursing students, File of Life information from our Doctor of Pharmacy students, and very informative emergency iPhone Medical ID info (as well as, all around dental knowledge) from our College of Dental Medicine students. The members of the community that we encountered were very welcoming and seemed to be appreciative of our overall presence. The conversations ranged from blood pressure/health concerns to invitations to join the Zumba Gold class. One conversation that I enjoyed was with a retired pharmacist who was eager to chat with us about the importance of exercise.

After leaving the “Y”, we headed to lunch then visited Jensen’s Pharmacy. One of my classmates actually did a rotation at this pharmacy, so I was excited to see all of the things he had previously shared with me about this location. Curtis, the owner of the pharmacy, walked us around the pharmacy and talked to us about his path to owning an independent pharmacy. He also shared with us the impact of being a local pharmacy in the area and the relationships with the prescribers. It was good to hear about the mutual respect for each others professions, something that we (as interprofessional students) are working on perfecting during this rural immersion.

The purpose of this trip was to identify some of the barriers to care in the rural setting. My personal reflection would not be complete without mentioning the overall need for a public transportation system in this location. The community is overflowing with individuals who are willing to donate their time to serve the underserved population, which was very apparent to me. However, the lack of reliable transportation is blocking the most needy from acquiring these services. I won’t claim to have the answer to this barrier, but I will definitely be researching it. Until then, I will just recap a few things I learned on this trip: the definition of camping, hard water is real, fisher cat is neither a fish nor a cat, singing happy birthday in public is fun, and most of all, this was definitely the BEST immersion crew EVER!

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