Bridging the gap: Student-run health fair rounds out Health Equity Week 2015

April 28, 2015
HCEWOn Sunday, April 26, more than 150 volunteers from Oregon universities gathered in an underground parking garage at O’Bryant Square in downtown Portland to provide health care screening and access to services for the underserved. The Health Screening Fair, which is designed to help Oregonians live healthier lives, took place on the last day of Health Care Equity Week, which began April 20. The week featured student-organized lectures and volunteer events intended to raise awareness about disparities in the U.S. health care system.

The screening fair – held in conjunction with the weekly free meal service “Potluck in the Park” in O’Bryant Square – was organized by students from Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon State University College of Pharmacy. Volunteers included students and faculty from OHSU medical, nursing, dental and physician assistant programs; pharmacy students from OSU; acupuncture students from Oregon College of Oriental Medicine; and students and faculty from the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Northwest in Lebanon, Ore. The truly interprofessinal team provided critical HCEWservices including vision and hearing exams, reading glasses, dental extractions, medication reviews, women’s health counseling, diabetes screenings and foot care. Hygiene items were available as well, providing attendees with tooth brushes, soap, contraceptives, clean socks and more. Volunteer interpreters were on-hand to translate in languages ranging from Spanish to Mandarin. 

“As students, we have lots of clinical experiences,” said second-year OHSU medical student Anushka Shenoy. “But in the clinic, most people have insurance and receive regular primary care. At this event, we get experience helping a different community of people, which is invaluable no matter what specialty we pursue,” she said.

For more than a decade, the fair has helped 200-plus underserved Oregonians annually. 

“Even though there are now more people with health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, there are still many who, for whatever reason, can’t visit the doctor,” Shenoy said. “Our event aims to bridge that gap.”