Written and photographed by Jeffery Lo, with contributions from Kaylee Miu, Ji-In Min, and Crystal Lee.
As a student at Michigan, you’ll be hit from many directions by events from all sorts of organizations and faculty members. Rest assured, there is no shortage of opportunities for you to engage with the community. If you walked into the College of Pharmacy right now, you can probably find a flyer for some volunteering event happening soon. To put it into context of why we do so much of it, here’s what current P2, Kaylee Miu, has to say about being a student here:
Pharmacists today are playing a major role in raising the standards of healthcare. As pharmacy students of University of Michigan, we are taught to not only treat patient disease states, but to understand all factors involved in improving the quality of life of our patients…
Going out in the community lets us gain a better understanding of these different disease states and like Kaylee said, allow us to better understand the factors involved in improving the qualify of life of a patient. Altruism aside, this is why I enjoy volunteering. It challenges me to apply what I’ve learned in my classes. Sure, we all get practice from Standardized Patient Interactions (SPI) with actor patients, but going to a site and interacting with the community is the real deal.
In early February, many Michigan students and I got to put our skills to the test at Community Connect, an annual event held at Parker Middle School in Howell, Michigan that serves residents of Livingston County. It is self-described as a “one-stop-shop for social services, legal and utility assistance/information, health screenings, free clothing, books, food, personal care items and more.”
Over 70 students from the College of Pharmacy and the Pre-Pharmacy Society at Michigan volunteered at stations that had health screenings, posters, and games aimed at educating patients on topics such as:
- Blood and Glucose Screenings
- Blood Pressure Screenings
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Diabetic Foot Screenings
- Diet for Diabetic Patients
- Fact and Myths about Immunizations
- Heart Health
- Over-the Counter Analgesics
- Prescription Drug Abuse
- Weight Management
Here’s what Ji-In Min, P2, had to say about their experience at Community Connect:
This year for Community Connect, I presented a poster about prescription drug abuse and safe medication disposal. A man who worked for a medication disposal project in Howell, MI called “The Big Red Barrel Project” came up to our poster. He shared his personal story about drug abuse in his family and thanked us for raising awareness about such a serious topic. I had always heard about prescription drug abuse in the news, but hearing his story really made it real and showed me the importance of educating our patients. Overall, I really enjoyed my second year participating in Community Connect and the opportunity to interact with patients. It was encouraging to see the impact of pharmacists in the community and on the patients we serve.
For others, Community Connect showed them the importance of health fairs.
During Community Connect, I learned how to communicate effectively with the public about their health because it was my first experience with presenting a poster at a health fair. I learned that health fairs are a great way to educate the public about steps they can take to make lifestyles changes that can lead to healthier lives. Volunteering at health fairs like Community Connect will help me in the future because I will be communicating with many different people with varying levels of health literacy as a pharmacist and it is helpful to get as much practice as possible speaking with people who come from many different backgrounds about their health.
Crystal Lee, P1
Personally, I got to perform blood pressure screenings for the first time and interpreted the results for patients. I helped them understand what the numbers mean and providing information on follow-up timeframes. Though the task of screening is relatively simple, I value these interactions because they allow me to practice communicating with people in a healthcare setting. You get an instant gratification from providing a patient with a positive experience that you just don’t get in class. Make no mistake, as a student you won’t always get this result; sometimes you’ll say or do something wrong and have a preceptor correct you. But this gives you an opportunity to improve and grow. Watching this growth in myself and others around me is exciting and it’s what makes me crazy about community service.