Over a two-​​week span in March, North­eastern phar­macy fac­ulty mem­bers and stu­dents hosted a series of health fairs in the Boston area to pro­vide free blood-​​pressure screen­ings to com­mu­nity mem­bers as well as edu­ca­tion on topics ranging from heart health to smoking cessation.

The effort, led by phar­macy prac­tice asso­ciate pro­fessor Kathy Bungay and vis­iting assis­tant clin­ical pro­fessor Chris­tine Chim, was sup­ported by a grant from the National Asso­ci­a­tion of Chain Drug Stores Foun­da­tion. It was part of “Team Up, Pres­sure Down,” a com­po­nent of the Mil­lion Hearts ini­tia­tive launched in 2011 by the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices that aims to pre­vent 1 mil­lion heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

Northeastern’s School of Phar­macy in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences was the only phar­macy school in Mass­a­chu­setts to receive funding in the first round of awards to set up these health fairs and pro­vide patient screening data back to the NACDS.

Between March 16 and 28, about 30 North­eastern stu­dents and 11 fac­ulty vol­un­teered at the health fairs in Boston’s neigh­bor­hoods, as well as in Somerville and Lynn; a total of 214 patients received screen­ings. Fairs were held in areas with heavy foot traffic, and because the sites were located close to local health cen­ters, com­mu­nity mem­bers deemed at risk were easily referred to those health facilities.

Bungay noted that the health fair ini­tia­tive also served as a greater effort in the School of Phar­macy to have fac­ulty mem­bers working at var­ious sites in the Boston area all join forces on a single com­mu­nity effort.

This is one of what we hope will be many projects with our ambu­la­tory care prac­ti­tioners, because there is so much need in the com­mu­nity,” Bungay said. “There was great syn­ergy in us all working together with our stu­dents, who were on clin­ical rota­tions and vol­un­teering from sev­eral stu­dent organizations.”

Added Chim: “We really wanted to instill in the stu­dents the impor­tance of con­necting with their com­mu­ni­ties through events like these health fairs.”

Jen­nifer Giles, a grad­uate stu­dent pur­suing her doc­torate in phar­macy, vol­un­teered at two sites—which was her first expe­ri­ence working in a com­mu­nity health fair setting.

It was a great learning expe­ri­ence,” she said. “I love the idea of reaching out and pro­viding access to health­care to people who need it most but often don’t get it. It felt good to make an impact in my com­mu­nity by giving only a few hours of my time.”

Third-​​year phar­macy stu­dent Katie Zheng vol­un­teered at one of the health fairs held at the Chi­na­town YMCA, where she and other stu­dents from Northeastern’s chapter of the Stu­dent National Phar­ma­ceu­tical Asso­ci­a­tion set up a bake sale fea­turing an assort­ment of healthy snacks.

Zheng, who speaks Chi­nese, helped one elderly Chi­nese woman who didn’t speak Eng­lish, intro­ducing her to a grad­uate stu­dent giving the blood-​​pressure screen­ings and facil­i­tating a dis­cus­sion on the woman’s overall health.

She was very grateful because I think she felt she could open up to someone and not get lost in the con­ver­sa­tion because we were talking on her level. It was the high­light of my day,” Zheng said.