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IUSM-Terre Haute health fair shows a commitment to community

Feb. 13, 2014

2014 marks the 10th year that IU School of Medicine-Terre Haute students displayed their commitment to improving the health of everyone across their community, especially those with limited access to medical resources.

Medical student

Casi Blanton of Wellness on Wheels, a part of the IU National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, speaks with a visitor to the 10th annual Terre Haute Health Community Health Fair. | Photo credit: Taihung Duong

The Terre Haute Community Health Fair, hosted by students from the IU School of Medicine-Terre Haute, took place Feb. 9 at the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club, which is the site of the old Chauncey Rose Middle School. The student-organized event included more than 50 medical student volunteers, mostly first- and second-year students from the regional medical education center, along with more than 45 community exhibitors.

"This community health fair has given our school a sense of identity over the past 10 years," said Jeremy Sherer, a health fair volunteer and first-year medical student at the IU School of Medicine-Terre Haute. "It's a valuable opportunity for all the students here to gain experience and insight in regard to the social lland community contexts of health care."

Established in 2005, the health fair has grown each year in size and impact on the community's health and health education. At this year's event, IUSM-Terre Haute medical students assisted more than 100 people with basic height, weight and BMI measures, as well as paperwork. A local nephrologist's office offered free kidney screenings, and other partners provided vision screenings, blood sugar tests and massage therapy sessions.

Medical student

IUSM student Sara (Ara) Scott speaks with a visitor to the fair. More than 45 local exhibitors joined the 50 medical students at the event. | Photo credit: Taihung Duong

The event's growth from a service-learning project to a full-scale community event couldn't have taken place without the dedication of the medical student organizers, said Taihung Duong, Ph.D., associate dean and director of IUSM-Terre Haute.

"I am very proud of our medical students for continuing a strong community engagement tradition and organizing the 2014 Terre Haute Community Health Fair," Dr. Duong said. "This experience gives medical students the opportunity to learn about the psychosocial and economic dimensions of illness, while partnering with the community in overcoming barriers to health and reversing ill behaviors through health education."

The students' resolve was particularly apparent this year as they worked tirelessly to increase community awareness through newspaper, radio and television promotions. Many first-year medical students also visited local churches to inform residents about the fair.

health fair

More than 100 community members filled the gym at the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club, which is the site of the old Chauncey Rose Middle School. | Photo credit: Taihung Duong

In addition to free health screenings, event visitors had the opportunity to get healthy living tips on topics such as mental health, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual violence prevention and dental health from local, state and national organizations. The fair also offered numerous activities to educate and entertain children about healthy lifestyles and behavior. Everyone from the local community was encouraged to visit, participate and connect with medical students as well as other local health service providers.

"We had exhibitors from all spectrums of the health care industry -- from blood glucose tests to nutritional education," said Milan Patel, a member of the Terre Haute Community Health Fair committee and a second-year medical student at IUSM-Terre Haute. "It’s really a great time for the School of Medicine to show its commitment to the community's health and well-being."

This year, the fair also featured a visit from Wellness on Wheels, a mobile health clinic operated by the IU National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health to raise awareness and improve the status of women’s health in Indiana through education and screening. A mobile blood clinic was also present to collect donations from student, faculty and staff volunteers at the IU School of Medicine.

health fair

IUSM students Alexandra Edwards, far left, Leigh Nieto, middle, and Casi Blanton, far right, meet with visits to the fair. | Photo credit: Taihung Duong

The event's ultimate goal was to educate people on the importance of personal health and the role it plays in the lives of everyone in the Wabash Valley region, said Katharine Tsukahara, chair of the Terre Haute Community Health Fair and a second-year medical student at IUSM-Terre Haute. The regional medical campus -- which educates more than 60 medical students, now including third- and fourth-year medical students -- is also home to IUSM's only rural health program, which aims to fulfill the growing need for physicians to serve outside large metropolitan areas.

"Putting together this community health fair is very rewarding for us," Tsukahara said. "There are many people in our community and surrounding areas without insurance or the necessary resources to receive adequate health care, and this event helps bring the community together."

To illustrate the power of the fair for some local residents, Tsukahara told the story of an elderly woman who attended the event in its earliest years. She did not realize she had kidney problems until being screened by students at the event, who then connected her to a local health care provider. Now, she is an annual visitor to the event, where she still makes a point to thank the medical students each year for what they do.

"Those are the types of stories that give the community health fair meaning," Tsukahara said. "It's great to know we have made a difference in someone’s life."

For more pictures from the 2014 Terre Haute Community Health Fair, visit this photo gallery.

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