WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – What started as a local effort by medical students to provide free health care to the community could lead to similar projects at medical schools across the country.
In January 2007, the annual “Share the Health” Fair was held at Marketplace Mall by Wake Forest University School of Medicine (WFUSM) students. The co-chairs of the event, Blair Simpson and Lindsay Chaney, will present the results of the project at the Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Public Health Association (APHA) being held Nov. 3-7 in Washington, D.C.
“The APHA is one of the biggest public health meetings in the country -- most likely the world,” said Michael Lischke, Ed.D., assistant professor of Family & Community Medicine and director of the Northwest Area Health Education Center (AHEC), who served as the faculty advisor for the project. “Being invited to present is an honor and a perfect opportunity for the Wake Forest University students to proudly showcase their community health experience to a huge international audience.”
Health fair organizers worked closely with the Northwest AHEC, based at WFU School of Medicine, and N.C. AHEC throughout the planning and implementation of the health fair. As a result of their success, the Northwest AHEC encouraged them to present their results nationally in order to encourage similar projects at medical schools through the country.
“We hope that the enthusiasm and determination to serve our medically underserved neighbors through the Share the Health Fair will serve as a microcosm for similar efforts from the greater Wake Forest community to the national level,” Simpson said.
WFUSM students decided to hold the free health fair as an effort to fulfill the goals of both Healthy People and Healthy Carolinians 2010 which are to increase quality of health care and eliminate health disparities. Medical students have organized a health fair annually since 2000.
“We worked together as a school and a community to provide a day of free services to our neighbors,” Simpson said.
The 2007 fair was staffed by 175 medical and physician assistant students, 30 physicians, 40 local and statewide organizations, and 45 lab technicians. More than 900 people attended the event and received free preventative health screenings, as well as information about diabetes, diet and exercise, and community health resources. Screening tests offered included cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure, skin cancer, bone density, hepatitis B, pulmonary function tests, and glaucoma.
Information was distributed in English and Spanish and translators for Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Cantonese, and Korean were also available. The fair also offered a “meet-n-greet” with Wake Forest University athletes, a kids’ zone with games and activities, giveaways, and free healthy snacks.
“I am proud of what Lindsay, Blair and the entire WFU School of Medicine students organized, implemented and completed last February and look forward to what the group will accomplish again at the 2008 Share the Health Fair,” Lischke said.
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Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest University School of Medicine 18th in primary care and 44th in research among the nation's medical schools. It ranks 35th in research funding by the National Institutes of Health. Almost 150 members of the medical school faculty are listed in Best Doctors in America.