By Scott Halasz
May 24, 2014
CEDARVILLE — As Jeff Lewis, associate dean of the Cedarville University School of Pharmacy, runs through a mental list of places where pharmacy faculty members and students have been involved or plan to be involved serving underserved people groups, it’s clear that the school’s vision for service is not a small one.
“Cambodia, Swaziland, Kenya, other places in the Caribbean and the Central Americas,” he said, launching into an overview of the many areas students and faculty members are putting both their pharmacy practice skills and their faith into action. That list includes locations both domestic and abroad.
This global vision stems in part from the school’s vision, mission and values statements, which repeatedly reference the development of service-related attitudes and skills “locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally, maintaining a particular sensitivity to the underserved.”
As those connected to the Cedarville University School of Pharmacy develop themselves as medical professionals while serving in various locations, they always find themselves learning more about themselves and their faith.
Jeffrey Huston, instructor of pharmacy practice and director of student and professional development for the Cedarville University School of Pharmacy, has been traveling to Honduras to work as part of a short-term medical missions teams there since 2006. In that time, he’s been to Honduras 14 times with both students from The Ohio State University and now with students from Cedarville University.
While there, he and a team of students, medical practitioners and physicians work in various Honduran villages to educate the people there, to diagnose and treat various medical conditions that would otherwise go untreated and to establish relationships with patients to improve outcomes.
One of the key goals for the trip is the education of the local people they meet. The groups Huston travels with often create posters about various specific health issues and teach the individuals they meet about that information. After presenting the information, the groups leave the same information in a notebook so the village can have access to that information after the team leaves.
“We don’t just go in, treat and leave,” Huston said. “We want to have a relationship where every year we hope to see improvement and provide follow-up care.”
Members of the teams will also go to schools in the country to educate schoolchildren about the importance of dental hygiene. Students are given a toothbrush, toothpaste, a fluoride treatment and information about how to better take care of their teeth.
Juanita Draime is one of many students who are volunteering to run STEPS (Students Teaching Educational Plans for Success), a ministry at St. Vincent de Paul’s men’s shelter in Dayton. Draime is a third year professional pharmacy student and is a member of the executive committee for the ministry.
A typical session will see 13 medical, nursing and pharmacy students from both Wright State University and Cedarville working to help educate the men there.
“We work with the homeless men at St. Vincent de Paul Gettysburg Gateway to encourage them to make improvements in lifestyle behaviors and choices using motivational interviewing techniques,” Draime said. “We do blood pressure and blood glucose screenings as well as provide a nutritious snack for the men. Our continued presence at the shelter on a twice-monthly basis has also allowed us to develop relationships with some of the men and just let them know that people do care about them.”
When Kelly Wright was in pharmacy school at Ohio Northern University, she realized that she wanted to work with underserved populations. After a missions trip to Uganda and service in a clinic back stateside helped to solidify this interest, she was set on the path to working in this area in her professional career. Wright recently completed regular service at a clinic where she did just that.
Columbus Neighborhood Health Centers, Inc. (CNHC), serves many individuals who are uninsured or who lack the resources to pay for full health care coverage. At the clinic, Wright ran diabetes management and smoking cessation programs where she worked to optimize patient medication therapy and provide recommendations on lifestyle changes to help those patients reach their own goals.
At the clinic, Wright worked with patients to resolve any issues that they might have relating to medications, including the actual dispensing of the medications, counseling and catching errors in prescriptions.
Through her work as a pharmacist, she was able to spend more time with her patients than other providers might be able to.
“Especially for those who don’t have a lot of family or social support, education, money or resources of any kind,” Wright said, “I think that having someone who will take the time to sit down and explain things to them and work with them and actually care about them, I think makes a huge impact.”
Wright has also previously served in another free Columbus practice, Grace in the City Hardin Clinic, which has a similar mission to CNHC.
Emily Laswell was the leader of a 2014 spring break missions trip to Honduras where both pharmacy and nursing students were able to put both their studies and faith into action. The group traveled to Florida, Copán, Honduras, and helped other health care professionals run a clinic where they provided patients with medical care. The team also provided patients tips on how to improve their overall health and shared the Gospel with them.
“A lot of the people in that area don’t have access to health care, and according to the mission team’s medical director, some of them would walk several hours just to get to the clinic to be seen by a doctor for various health conditions,” Laswell said. “It was really encouraging to see all these people who are grateful for the littlest things. It was such an eye-opening experience.”
Laswell is already making plans for her 2015 spring break trip.
“I cannot wait to go back,” she said. “I’ve already started working with the physician, planning medication lists and brainstorming things we can do better or different next year.”