UTPA pharmacy students lend a helping hand
Contact: Roxanne Lerma Casares, Staff Writer (956) 665-2741
Posted: 10/21/2011
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About 200 people turned up for free medical screenings and immunizations Oct. 20 at a health fair sponsored by The University of Texas-Pan American/University of Texas at Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program. The goal is to raise awareness in the community on what pharmacists can do to support the local population.

A student in the UTPA/UT Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program prepares to administer a shot to a patient during the second annual neighborhood health fair Oct. 20 held at Alamo Drugs. Photo courtesy of the UTPA/UT Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program.

The second annual neighborhood health fair was held at Alamo Drugs to recognize American Pharmacists Month. Dr. Lydia Aguilera, clinical associate professor of the cooperative program, said it is important to reach out to the public with health advice.

"The purpose of this health fair is to celebrate the pharmacy profession and provide an opportunity for students to give back to the community," Aguilera said. "I believe the community is grateful for the opportunity to receive wellness screenings and preventive medicine."

Third and fourth-year pharmacy students performed blood pressure checks, medication reviews and students certified in immunizations administered flu shots. The future pharmacists also partnered up with Texas Oncology to present information on cancer screenings. First and second-year students in the Bronc Pre Pharmacy Association provided poison prevention and nutrition facts.

"They are often surprised and jump at the opportunity to receive these services," said Jose Luis Barrera, a third-year cooperative student. "These different services can end up costing residents in the community a good deal of money. Many are truly interested in keeping an eye on their health, and these screenings give them a chance to do just that."

Graciela Cuellar, another third-year pharmacy apprentice, said she was eager to receive the opportunity to work with patients in a real-life setting.

"Our goal is to raise awareness on the importance of disease prevention while demonstrating to the public that pharmacists are a reliable, health information resource," Cuellar said. "The community is always very receptive and appreciative of the services we provide. It is always a very rewarding experience."

Barrera said the venue is a great way to network with potential employers and serve the community.

"We have an opportunity to show how we can make a difference and it reminds us why we decided to go into the pharmacy profession," he said. "Pre pharmacy students at UTPA benefit with the experience they acquire in communicating with the people they will be serving and the pharmacists they will be interacting with in the future."

Students enrolled in the Cooperative Pharmacy Program spend their first two years taking a number of prerequisite courses at UTPA, and then move to UT Austin for two years to take their upper level classes. The prospective pharmacists then return to UTPA to finish their studies and begin internships throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

"These events are important because they allow the community to receive services such as total cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose, and even the flu vaccine when they may not have received them due to various reasons," Barrera said. "These events also allow pharmacists and pharmacy students to demonstrate that we can have a positive impact in the total care of patients."

For more information about the Cooperative Pharmacy Program call (956) 665-5255 or visit its website.