Long rows of tables stocked with health screening supplies stand ready as groups of pharmacy students clad in white coats make one last check. Project Collaborate is about to get underway.
Within the next few hours, hundreds of patients make their way to Hispanic Health Fair to take advantage of free health screenings including blood glucose and cholesterol testing, blood pressure monitoring, and body mass index calculations. Pharmacy students conduct the screenings and counsel the patients regarding the results under the watchful eyes of preceptor faculty. Most patients find that their results fall within healthy norms while others are counseled concerning diet and lifestyle changes that may help bring their readings closer to healthy ranges. A few are advised to see their private health care provider for more extensive testing.
"Project Collaborate is a college-wide initiative, which brought together not only every student organization in the College of Pharmacy, but also dozens of other philanthropic groups and organization in the community to provide free health screenings and patient education to underserved populations in Austin, El Paso, San Antonio, and the Rio Grande Valley," stated Christina Chang, current co-chair of Project Collaborate.
During the 2010-2011 academic year, the first year of the collaborative venture, the student organizations collectively provided 15 health screenings that served almost 1,500 patients. Since then, Project Collaborate has coordinated over 46 events, reaching out to over 4,407 patients. Of those patients, over one third were referred for further evaluation and follow-up. In addition to these numbers, countless others have received education on medication safety and other health related topics. Funding for this program, as both monetary donations and supplies, has come from Deans' Allocation, Tarrytown Pharmacy, HEB and CVS.
The mission of Project Collaborate is to provide health maintenance evaluations to many in Texas' underserved communities. Student pharmacists provide the health screenings free of charge in a variety of environments. Patients often represent populations with limited financial resources, lack of insurance or language barriers that prevent them from utilizing similar services.
"This program really focuses the attention on the strengths of the College of Pharmacy. It allows students to apply what they are learning in classes while truly making an impact in the community," explains Darlene Nguyen, current co-chair of Project Collaborate. "Even before the first day of class, first year pharmacy students are trained on how to conduct these screenings, really preparing them to become health care professionals."
"Project Collaborate gives students real-world experience in interacting with patient populations and cultures, as well as other members of the patient care team," states Kristin Welsh, current President-Elect for the Pharmacy Student Council.
The future of Project Collaborate promises to be exciting as several changes are being made to account for the rapidly growing program. The inclusion of the college of Nursing and the school of Social Work have already made a positive impact on the growth and improvement. More plans are being made to incorporate not just the organizations of the College of pharmacy, but every health care education initiative that they make."The passion the College has for this initiative is astounding and can explain the tremendous success the program has experienced," Welsh says. "Everything has been accomplished through the hard work and dedication of faculty, staff, students, and our partners in the community working together with the common goal of having a positive impact in our communities."
See also: Project Collaborate Home Page