West Virginia University students are tireless in their efforts to give back to their communities. These service learning opportunities also provide valuable resources to those communities. Several WVU Pharmacy and Nursing students are heading to McDowell County, West Virginia, to participate in the Southside K-8 School’s back-to-school community social for residents of the area. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Aug.  14, at the Word Assembly of God on Main Street in War, West Virginia.

As part of the health fair, the WVU Health Sciences Center students will provide information about smoking cessation, prescription medication education, drug abuse education, fall prevention, blood pressure and glucose screenings, nutrition tips, stress reduction, and other health-related topics geared toward helping people achieve a healthier lifestyle.

“This is the second year the WVU School of Pharmacy has coordinated the health fair for McDowell County residents,” Ashlee McMillan, Pharm.D., clinical assistant professor in the WVU School of Pharmacy, said. “We really enjoy spending time with the community members there, speaking with them and providing them with the health information and screenings that can help improve the quality of their lives. Health fairs such as these not only offer our students a way to provide healthcare services to members of the community, but the fairs also provide a place where people can receive health services they may not have access to easily. We also have the opportunity to provide information about other health choices, such as help with quitting tobacco use and education about prescription drug abuse, which may not be readily available.”

Student pharmacists first reached out to the McDowell County community in 2014 after reading an article about drug abuse and poverty in the area. Partnering with Southside K-8 School, the 2014 health fair was a success, and the students were invited to return for the school’s annual social to perform health screenings and education for approximately 500 members of the community. Dr. McMillan extended an invitation to the WVU School of Nursing to participate in order to offer community members more health information and services. Residents of the county also experience higher than average health-related issues, such as diabetes, obesity, mental health and cancer-related issues, among others. The health-related services the WVU Nursing and Pharmacy students will be providing will help the residents manage and monitor their health.

“Outreach initiatives like this provide a unique learning experience for our students where they can work collaboratively to identify the needs of the community, develop appropriate educational information and execute events geared toward improving lives,” said Susan Pinto, assistant clinical professor, WVU School of Nursing. “We have a responsibility to provide resources that improve health outcomes to West Virginians, and this is a wonderful example of how we are taking West Virginia University to those communities who need us.”

Each year, students from the Health Sciences Center partner together to provide community outreach to West Virginia residents. The WVU Nursing and Pharmacy students worked to coordinate the health portion of the 2015 fair as part of community outreach efforts or as a part of their coursework.

For more information: Contact: Amy Newton (adnewton@hsc.wvu.edu), School of Pharmacy or Tara Curtis, School of Nursing (tecurtis@hsc.wvu.edu)