In the crowded office at Ensor Forest Apartments on a Tuesday afternoon, it was difficult to tell who was benefiting the most.
The residents got free health screenings and advice on how to take better care of themselves.
The University of South Carolina medical and pharmacy students got out of the classroom for real life experience.
The Healthy Columbia organization got free labor and cultivated more disciples – both the Ensor Forest residents and the future health professionals – to spread the effort to improve the health of people in the 29203 zip code.
Healthy Columbia has performed more than 1,100 health screenings in the past 14 months, often utilizing volunteers from hospitals, universities or health agencies. The Ensor Forest screenings on July 16 represented a new twist — Tuesday afternoon screenings are now included in the rotations of third-year students in the USC School of Medicine and South Carolina College of Pharmacy.
“We wanted them to be exposed to public outreach and to the team care approach,” said Dr. Donna Ray, a clinical assistant professor at the medical school who helped with the screenings.
Medical students Jennifer Osman and Lateef Johnson and pharmacy students Andrea Perriguey and William Dail were soaking up knowledge while dishing out help. They measured blood pressure and blood sugar levels and asked about health concerns. They also observed attentively as Ray adeptly turned conversations about the residents’ health concerns into suggestions for reducing those concerns.
Ray praised resident Effie Gladden, who is recovering from a stroke, for eating right and taking her medications. “I can’t fuss at you,” Ray said, before suggesting that Gladden enter all of her drug information on a LifeScripts list in case she had to be rushed to a hospital.
“I’m glad they came out, and I hope they can come back,” Gladden said. “It’s good for some of us who can’t get around that well, who don’t have transportation.”
Resident Nate Harrison said he walks 2.5 miles daily, but he would like to find another inexpensive exercise outlet. He was aimed to the Better Choices, Better Health program at a church just up Monticello Road.
“They informed me about what I should do and how I should do it,” Harrison said.
Healthy Columbia is focusing on the 29203 zip code (the Eau Claire/North Columbia area) because it has high levels of many chronic diseases and uninsured residents. The screening efforts mostly focus on encouraging healthier choices, and the partnership with USC branches the effort in a new direction.
“The goal is to help medical students and pharmacy students understand what the challenges are out in the communities they will serve,” said Terri Jowers, director of Healthy Columbia.
The students said they look forward to taking on those challenges. For now, they just appreciated taking more baby steps toward their careers.
“Usually, we’re sitting and looking over patient data,” Perriguey said. “This way, we get patient interaction.”
“The first two years in med school, you’re locked in the library,” joked Osman. “It’s really cool to get out and see these things work and have tangible effects on people’s lives.”
More information: www.healthycolumbia.org