UNE Students Share Experiences on their Second Day of the Fall Long Weekend Western Maine Rural Health Immersion

Minh Tam Hua, second year pharmacy student, and Rodger Carter, first year osteopathic medicine student provide a blood pressure screening to a volunteer at the Fryeburg Fair on Saturday, October 7th.

Minh Tam Hua, second year pharmacy student, and Rodger Carter, first year osteopathic medicine student provide a blood pressure screening to a volunteer at the Fryeburg Fair on Saturday, October 7th.

Ten UNE health professions students recently participated in a long weekend rural health immersion to Oxford County in western Maine and to Carroll County in northern New Hampshire.  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 fourth immersion experience that the Maine AHEC and CEHI have provided for UNE students but the first time that a group has traveled to Oxford County.  Last May a group of 13 medical, pharmacy, dental, and nursing students traveled to Maine’s midcoast region of Knox and Waldo Counties for a weeklong immersion; last March medical and nursing students participated in a weeklong immersion in Franklin County; and in May of 2016 a group of 15 medical, pharmacy, and dental students participated in a weeklong immersion in Aroostook County.  Of the four immersions that have been held so far, this was the most diverse group of students, five different health professions were represented from UNE from the College of Osteopathic Medicine, College of Pharmacy, College of Dental Medicine, and Westbrook College of Health Professions Physician Assistant and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs.  Throughout the trip the students were split into interprofessional teams so that they could learn about the roles of the other professions and how to communicate effectively across disciplines in order to provide team-based care and improve patient outcomes, a primary learning outcome of the four year Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation grant that helps fund the immersion experiences.   The students experienced a variety of clinical, community, and population health activities in underserved areas in western Maine and northern New Hampshire.  Below are reflections from one team after the second day on Saturday, October 7th, 2017.

Brittany Malia, second year dental medicine student

The rural health immersion trip has been an amazing experience! Today was our second day and in the morning we volunteered at the Fryeburg Fair to help staff the First Aid centers. At the fair, we handed out care kits and provided blood pressure screenings. I enjoyed interacting with members of the community at the fair and talking to them about the communities that they live in.

After the fair, we toured a local community Pharmacy at a Hannafords supermarket. The pharmacist showed the entire group how a prescription is filled from start to finish, which I thought was enlightening since I will be prescribing once I become a dentist. This was just one of the many places that we have been able to see throughout the weekend; yesterday we also toured two critical access hospitals, two community health centers, and an oral health clinic. The rural health immersion trip has been a wonderful opportunity to learn about the roles of other health professions, and how we can successfully work together as a team in order to provide the highest quality care to our patients.

Later in the evening we returned back to our house on the water to play board games and have s’mores in front of an open fire. During this trip, I have met many wonderful students from other health professions that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet. I highly recommend this trip to anyone considering attending!

 

 

UNE students pose for a photo in front of one of the first aid stations at the Fryeburg Fair, where the students helped hand out free Care Kits and provided health screenings to anyone interested.

UNE students pose for a photo in front of one of the first aid stations at the Fryeburg Fair, where the students helped hand out free Care Kits and provided health screenings to anyone interested.

Minh Tam Hua, second year pharmacy student

Today during the Fall Long Weekend Rural Health Immersion, I got the opportunity to volunteer taking blood pressure and passing out Care Kits to the people at the Fryeburg Fair, which is known to be the largest agricultural fair in Maine. We were divided into groups, where each groups consisted of a medical student, a nursing student, a dental student, and a pharmacy student. This was my first time working with other students from other health professionals so I got the chance to learn more about their profession and what their roles were.

This event gave me the opportunity to meet and talk with people from the rural communities in Maine. My group and I took blood pressure of total 12 people and only one person turned out to have a “normal” blood pressure reading. The other 11 people’s blood pressures ranked in the hypertensive range. From class I know that the normal blood pressure reading in a healthy individual is around 120/80 and anything higher than that will be a risk factor for developing certain diseases. I was shocked that it was that many people who were at risk of getting Hypertension. As future health care providers, my group and I would recommend that the people whose blood pressures were in the hypertensive range be referred to the paramedics on staff. To our surprise, most of them weren’t concerned that their blood pressures were high. I feel that most of the people that we met during this fair didn’t want to hear about many of the health risk factors, such as unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, smoking and high blood pressure readings and how they can all lead to serious health issues in the future.

Based on this personal experience, I feel that we as health professionals should create more events in Rural communities where we provide free screenings and educate the community about the danger of the chronic diseases, such as Hypertension, Diabetes, Hyperlipidemia, Stroke, and Heart diseases. I think that, as students, we can make an impact on the health of these people. From a health professional point of view, and from what we’ve learned during this immersion so far, I believe that it’s important and better to prevent a disease early on than treating it later on. I feel that if we all stand together and contribute our part, we will be able to help reduce the number of chronic diseases that are taking place not only in these rural areas but also throughout the US.

Students conducted a Worksite Health ScoreCard at the fair to assess it's performance in several categories like Animal areas, Nutrition, Tobacco, and more.

Students conducted a Worksite Health ScoreCard assessment at the fair to assess it’s performance in several categories like Animal areas, Nutrition, Tobacco, and more.

 

Kimberlee Sell, second year dental student

On the second day of the immersion we attended the Fryeburg Fair which can attract between 30,000-40,000 people in a single day. We split into three teams, two teams worked at the first aid stations and one team would check the “Health Score” of the fair using an altered health assessment tool created by the CDC. While at the first aid stations we offered free blood pressure screenings and we gave out Care Kits consisting of things like toothpaste, soap, and band-aids. While the care kits seemed insignificant to me, it felt good to see how excited people were to get some basic health supplies for free, especially the toothpaste.

My first two shifts at the fair were spent giving blood pressure screenings. There was a good number of people who were very excited to see what their blood pressure was. I did notice a lot of people had a blood pressure that read into the hypertensive range. We would talk to them about visiting their primary care provider and hand them off to the NP or paramedic on staff with us. The people I talked to didn’t seem eager to visit their provider when we talked with them about it, perhaps because they had to travel long distances or couldn’t afford the co-pays at their doctors office.

The third station was checking the health of the Fair regarding Tobacco and Nutrition policies. The only ‘no smoking’ signs were located by the first aid stations. We noticed many people smoking in the middle of crowds of people. We thought the fair could improve it’s tobacco policy in order to make it a more healthy environment for guests; one recommendation would be to have designated smoking areas away from crowds of people. We also noticed that the healthy food choices were few and far between. We did see a steak salad and a smoothie bar. Overall, it was a fried paradise- anything you could think of was fried, oreos, ice-cream, dough, and more. Because of this we also thought the fair could improve its nutrition score by providing more healthy food options.

 

DSC_1071 smaller photo fire

Later in the evening the students returned to the house to enjoy s’mores over an open fire and reflect on the days activities.

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