Written By: Teny Joseph, Third-Year Student Pharmacist
February was American Heart Month. To help raise awareness about the prevalence and impact of cardiovascular diseases across our campus and in our community, the School of Pharmacy’s American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists’ (APhA-ASP) Operation Heart committee continued its long-standing tradition of celebrating American Heart Month and the national Million Hearts Initiative by hosting a number of community outreach and student welfare events throughout the month. The Million Hearts Initiative focuses on the ABCs of heart disease and stroke prevention – including, appropriate aspirin therapy, blood pressure control, cholesterol management, and smoking cessation — in order to prevent one million heart attacks and stroke-related incidents within a five-year time period. On Feb. 24, Operation Heart celebrated the culmination of its month-long series of Million Hearts themed events by organizing the Charm of a Million Hearts Health Fair at Lexington Market.
Continuing a Tradition of Community Service
Because we received such positive and encouraging feedback from last year’s Charm of a Million Hearts Health Fair, we wanted to continue improving and building upon our success with this year’s event. The community members, Lexington Market staff and administrators, community vendors, and student representatives who were involved in last year’s health fair shared how much they appreciated having the opportunity to participate in the event, as well as the impact and value that it had on them and their community. Last year, we invited 25 student organizations from across the University and community vendors to provide various patient care resources and health screening services. We served approximately 250 patients and provided 25 blood pressure screenings, 40 oral health/cancer screenings, and eight HIV/Hepatitis C screenings. The response and feedback that we received motivated our committee members to host the health fair again this year and envision new ways that it could have an even larger and more meaningful impact.
Broadening Our Outreach
Through reaching out to the Baltimore City Health Department, we were able to advertise and invite numerous local community organizations and vendors to participate in this year’s event. Our committee members also reached out to their peers in other student organizations throughout the University to ask if they would like to participate in our interprofessional community health fair.
As a result of these outreach efforts, this year’s Charm of a Million Heart Health Fair featured screenings and patient education provided by nearly 40 organizations, including 21 student organizations from the School of Pharmacy; interprofessional support from the Schools of Nursing, Dentistry, Medicine, and Social Work; as well as community vendors such as JACQUES Initiative, the PATIENTS program, Giant Food, Baltimore City Fire Department, and Community Risk Reduction Services — just to name a few. The health fair featured screenings for blood pressure, HIV/Hepatitis C, body mass index, sleep apnea, and diabetes risk, as well as naloxone training and certification, immunization services, CPR-chest compression training, and a separate exercise and educational section just for kids.
Making an Impact in the Community
With the help of all of the student volunteers and community vendors involved, we surpassed our outreach and engagement goals for this year’s event. By the end of this year’s Charm of a Million Hearts Health Fair, we had:
- Served more than 400 community members
- Performed more than 60 blood pressure screenings
- Conducted 20 HIV/Hepatitis C screenings
- Administered 10 immunizations
- Distributed 40 free naloxone kits
- Trained 22 residents on proper CPR-chest compression techniques
In addition, student pharmacists had the opportunity to work collaboratively with their peers in different professional schools, as well as community members, to educate patients on topics such as smoking cessation, services available through the Maryland Poison Center, medication adherence, nutritional and affordable healthy foods, opioid overdose and naloxone use, hospice awareness, and much more.
Thanking Everyone Who Made It Possible
Operation Heart thanks the University Student Government Association and the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy Student Government Association for supporting and funding this year’s health fair; Lexington Market for hosting us; the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Community Engagement Center for helping with advertising and promotion; the Baltimore City Health Department for helping to recruit community organizations; all of the organizations who participated in the health fair; the more than 90 students who served as volunteers; and Amy Howard, PharmD, staff pharmacist at the School of Pharmacy; Lucianne West, PharmD, PGY-2 cardiology pharmacy resident at Johns Hopkins Medicine; and Tricia Schneider, PharmD, community pharmacy administrative resident with Johns Hopkins Home Care Group, for serving as our preceptors.
I would also like to thank my fellow Operation Heart committee members, especially first-year student pharmacists Ayaa Ahmed, Bhavna Jois, Clynton Musngi, Juhi Hegde, Katelyn Callaghan, and Qianyu “Rita” Chen; second-year student pharmacists Carly Cheng, Jennifer Joo, and Nabila Faridi; and third-year student pharmacist Charlie Summerlin for serving as this year’s Charm of a Million Hearts Health Fair coordinators and hosting a successful and meaningful health fair. We hope that we were able to offer a valuable experience to our community through this outreach effort and hope to continue learning and improving for next year’s Charm of a Million Hearts Health Fair.