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Public health students hold health fair for local underserved Hispanic community

Students from Liberty’s Master of Public Health program offer free health screenings at Saturday’s clinic. (Photos by Luke Bobbey)

Students from Liberty University’s Department of Public & Community Health gained field experience and provided the local underserved Hispanic population with medical screenings at a health fair on Saturday, April 17, at La Iglesia de las Americas church in Lynchburg, Va.

Through this partnership with the Spanish-speaking church and community, Saturday’s clinic was a practical way for students taking the course HLTH 554: Medical Terminology en Español to apply the skills they’ve learned this semester. Department chair Dr. Oswald Attin, who teaches the class, explained that it helps prepare his students to serve Spanish-speaking communities and countries in their healthcare careers, and Saturday was a real-world example.

“With the class, we provide students with medical terminology in Spanish because a lot of them who take the class want to go into the medical field in a Spanish-speaking country, and they need to know how to communicate medical practices when they do that,” Attin said. “The students already know how to do these (screenings), but what this does is show them how to serve an underserved population and communicate with them firsthand, and that’s our mission in public health.”

Students from the rest of the department were able to participate as well.

The health fair was funded through an ILLUMINATE Grant for the Improvement of Teaching, sponsored by Liberty’s Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE). The ILLUMINATE grants are designed to encourage faculty to reflect on teaching practices and develop plans to enhance instruction through the introduction of new pedagogical and active learning techniques, activities, trips and/or learner-centered experiences.

The students helped conduct screenings for blood pressure, body mass index, bone density, vision, glucose, anemia, cholesterol, and A1C — tests that Attin said many of the patients don’t have consistent access to if they don’t have health insurance. For the patients who showed signs of bone issues, diabetes, or anemia, there was also the opportunity to schedule an appointment for further treatment and sign up for Medicaid.

“It’s super exciting and a great way to reach out to the community, and even though my Spanish isn’t the best, I’m still able to learn more as I talk to people today and I get to help them,” said Rebecca Brown, a graduate student in Liberty’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program. “Being able to speak to them in their first language is great, and to get to help them with these screenings is great too.”

MPH student Olufunmilayo Babarinde said she was grateful to help the community “because the kind of procedures that are going on here are very important for preventative care, so they don’t only get analyzed but they also get explanations for their results.” With the information students presented, “the patients are able to know what to do to prevent extremities from taking place,” she said. “I think it’s great that it’s all free of charge, and then on top of that, having the vaccine available too is just perfect.”

Patients were also able to receive he COVID-19 vaccine, which was administered by City of Lynchburg EMS.

The fair was approved and aided by the Virginia Department of Health and Executive Director of Student Health Center and Wellness Initiatives Keith Anderson, who said the health fair was an example of how the university invests in the well-being of the Lynchburg community.

“The job of Health and Wellness in helping to promote this points to the value of being a part of the community. We’re not just concerned about students on-campus, but our community as well,” Anderson said.

Attin, who is a pastor at Iglesia de las Americas, said he chose the church as the site of the clinic to have a more welcoming atmosphere and to physically open the door to the members of the community who might otherwise not visit the church.

“We thought that some people might not go to the health department to get vaccinated, but if we open our church, they’re going to feel more comfortable and familiar and they’re going to come get vaccinated,” he said. “A lot of these people don’t go to this church, so they also get (ministered) to as well, and the people from the church here get to help invite them here for services.”

“It’s pretty amazing because they can come here and get their bloodwork done and other tests done, and they can also get the vaccine,” said Hannah Brewer, a junior public health (pre-clinical) student. “I think it’s pretty great that it’s at a church and that people from different areas (of the community’s healthcare field) can help those who need it.”