Written By: Meryam Gharbi, Third-Year Student Pharmacist and Chair of APhA-ASP’s Operation Heart
Every February, students, faculty, and staff across the School of Pharmacy wear their hearts on their sleeves and come together in support of American Heart Month and the Million Hearts Initiative — a five-year national campaign launched in 2011, with the goal of preventing one million heart attacks and strokes in the United States. Throughout the month, the School’s American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) Operation Heart committee hosts a series of heart-related events dedicated to the initiative and promotion of heart health across the School and local Baltimore area. Within the last five years, our committee has:
- Provided blood pressure screenings to more than 600
- Educated more than 5,000 patients about how to keep their hearts healthy.
- Reached more than 60,000 people through public and media relations.
With the Million Hearts Initiative coming to an end, our committee decided to leverage this year’s events to celebrate our past dedication to the initiative, as well as the beginning of a new era of promoting heart health. We held seven events to celebrate our final Million Hearts Month.
Wear Red Day
To kick off this year’s campaign, approximately 60 student pharmacists, faculty, and staff congregated in the Ellen H. Yankellow Grand Atrium in Pharmacy Hall for an annual “Wear Red Day” photo to show our support for National Wear Red Day. The event also featured a photo booth in which participants could sign the pledge to keep their hearts healthy and pose with their heart-shaped pledges.
In collaboration with APhA-ASP’s Operation Diabetes and the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists student chapter, Operation Heart visited Mt. Clare Apartments in West Baltimore to provide educational presentations about safe aspirin use and healthy low-sugar and low-sodium meals.
Blood Pressure Training Session
A blood pressure training session led by the School’s cardiology pharmacy practice faculty was held to help prepare student pharmacists to provide cardiovascular screening and education for patients in the community. Faculty delivered presentations that featured general hypertension and blood pressure information. Later, students split into groups to participate in a quiz competition that tested their knowledge.
Roses for Hearts
Operation Heart sold red roses to faculty, staff, and students on Valentine’s Day, raising more than $150 to donate to the American Heart Association and the School’s APhA-ASP chapter.
Our committee held its annual interprofessional dodgeball tournament to raise funds for the American Heart Association. Students from the School of Pharmacy and School of Medicine participated in an eight-team, double-elimination tournament. More than 55 students attended, raising $210 for the American Heart Association.
Heart Gala and Mr. & Ms. Heart Pageant
New this year, Operation Heart hosted its inaugural Heart Gala to celebrate the School’s dedication to the Million Hearts Initiative. More than 60 guests attended in their red attire and enjoyed dinner as well as entertainment, including heart-related trivia and the first Mr. and Ms. Heart Pageant. Participants competed for the crown and were judged by the School’s cardiology pharmacy practice faculty on their “hearty” attire and heart knowledge.
Charm of a Million Hearts Health Fair
To end this year’s month-long campaign, Operation Heart once again hosted its annual interdisciplinary health fair at Lexington Market, where students offered blood pressure screenings, HIV/Hepatitis C screenings, oral cancer screenings, health education, cooking demonstrations, and dental screenings to members of the local community. Committee members were even interviewed by two news stations during the event. We provided more than 250 patients with services and collaborated with more than 30 School-based and community organizations to make the fair a success.
My co-chair, second-year student pharmacist Teny Joseph, and I are immensely proud of the dedication and commitment shown by all of our committee members and project coordinators this year. It is because of them that we were able to have such a great impact in our community. To that end, we would like to give a special thank-you to the following individuals who helped us organize this year’s events:
- Carly Cheng, First-Year Student Pharmacist
- Saniya Chaudhry, First-Year Student Pharmacist
- Elodie Tendoh, First-Year Student Pharmacist
- Pasang Sherpa, First-Year Student Pharmacist
- Jennifer Miller, First-Year Student Pharmacist
- Charlie Summerlin, Second-Year Student Pharmacist
- Jennifer Joo, First-Year Student Pharmacist
- Gao Xin, First-Year Student Pharmacist
- Xinqi Liu, First-Year Student Pharmacist
Although it is a bittersweet to close the door on the Million Hearts Initiative, I am excited for what the future holds for Operation Heart and the American Heart Association’s new initiative: Rise Above Heart Failure.