Samuel Merritt University’s (SMU) community partnerships offer students an opportunity to help people with limited access to healthcare while also sharpening their clinical skills so they will become more confident caregivers.
That’s what happened on August 11 when a team of 65 SMU student and faculty volunteers provided health screenings and education to residents of East Oakland during the 41st Health Fair at Allen Temple Baptist Church, one of the largest free healthcare gatherings in Oakland.
The SMU team of nursing, podiatry, physical therapy and physician assistant students and faculty members offered dozens of screenings for blood pressure, prediabetes, body fat, and foot health as well as physical assessments and consultations on healthy eating and exercise.
Angie Ohabughiro, a student in the Entry Level Master in Nursing program, says it was inspiring to work on an interprofessional team with students from other programs.
“Being able to bring our individual expertise and treatment modalities together to provide healthcare to the underserved cannot be matched anywhere,” says Ohabughiro. “It was amazing to see how administering simple tests could make a substantial difference in a person's health outcome. We got to apply our skills in real situations and I enjoyed bridging the gap between knowledge gained in class, and knowledge gained from real life.”
For Khadjia Lobo, who is studying to become a family nurse practitioner, it was her first time participating in the annual event.
“Students are eager to learn and eager to please; we will go the extra mile for a patient,” she says. “Our participation in this health fair teaches and benefits us as much as the patients we are treating.”
Lobo volunteered to lead the station measuring body mass index, or BMI, because she says obesity is one of the main health issues that plague lower socio-economic communities like East Oakland and can lead to hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
Assistant Professor Marjorie Hammer gave her nursing students class credit for participation because she says the event is an opportunity for students to challenge their own preconceptions, to be renewed and inspired, and to learn how to effectively work with an underserved and ethnically diverse community.
“The Allen Temple Health Fair is a living demonstration of how social and economic factors affect individual and community well-being and pose risks to health,” Hammer says. “That is an invaluable lesson for SMU students as they develop the skills necessary to be effective healthcare providers who work to reduce health disparities.”
Participating in events like the health fair and performing other community outreach helps to fulfill SMU’s goal of developing strong ties in Oakland.
“Giving back to the community was a rewarding experience, and I would recommend and encourage more people and students to take part in this fair in years to come,” says Ohabughiro.