STOCKTON — Sunday’s free health fair at St. Luke’s Catholic Church provided two valuable functions: offering medical tests and educating community residents who often fall through the cracks when it comes to health care; and supplying a venue for aspiring pharmacists to interact with real patients and earn some volunteer hours.
The Pacific Family Health Fair has become a tradition at the central Stockton church each March for the past 11 years. It’s organized by VN CARES — the Vietnamese Cancer Awareness Research Education Society of students from the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at University of the Pacific.
Michael Nguyen, a pharmacy student who handles marketing for the society, took time out from creating balloon animals for a group of children to explain Sunday’s mission: “To bring health awareness, education, as well as free screenings to the underserved community.”
Nguyen said more than 100 students volunteered to make the health fair happen. They served more than 240 visitors and provided screenings for more than 180 individuals.
Tables set up around the church hall were staffed by pharmacy students who focused on different health topics or provided screenings to check blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, hearing, anxiety and depression, memory decline and anemia.
One table offered tips on properly disposing of unneeded or expired medications. Do you know how to protect yourself from skin cancer? Another table provided answers.
First-year pharmacy student Matthew Yap, 20, answered basic questions about the human immunodeficiency virus commonly known as HIV that, if left untreated, can lead to AIDS.
“The therapy is very good now for HIV,” Yap said. “People are now living 40 or more years longer with treatment.”
There was a table focusing on the importance of getting vaccinated for influenza, especially for older people and individuals with compromised immune systems.
Nearby, Iris Chang, 24, was promoting the critical need to take prescription medications as directed. It’s known as medication adherence, and it can be a big problem for people who take the wrong dosage or forget to take the meds altogether.
Chang, a first-year pharmacy student from San Jose, showed how easy it is to deal with, providing samples of pill boxes with the day of the week and cards that patients with memory problems can fill out to manage their multiple prescriptions.
People who stopped by the Operation Self Care table heard first-year pharmacy student Hillary Lim share her personal experience of dealing with a close family member who has tried to stop smoking for decades.
“I talk to people about fostering the motivation to encourage them to quit smoking,” Lim, 22, said, noting that the No. 1 reason behind most people’s motivation to quit is the impact it has on their family.
“It’s a very tough barrier they have to overcome. They need a lot of mental strength to quit.”
Lim also shared that her own motivation to pursue a health care career was sparked by the effects of smoking she observed firsthand on her loved one and her family.
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