Saturday’s Health & Wellness Fair at Monroe Middle School was equal parts teaching, learning, community service and just plain fun as students from Wingate’s health science programs joined exhibitors from area agencies to offer screenings, kids’ activities and more.
Hosted by the University and Heart for Monroe, as well as the Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle, the event drew more than 130 people despite intermittent showers and high winds. More than 70 students and 17 faculty and staff members from Wingate’s health science programs volunteered.
“This was much better than I thought it would be when I saw the weather,” said E.J. Franklin, an exhibitor from Dignity Memorial, between chatting with attendees and signing them up for a raffle.
To Franklin’s right, representatives from Union County Human Services talked about the dangers of vaping and tobacco. And to his left, a pair of Wingate pharmacy students educated adults and children about skin-cancer risks. Across the exhibit space, their classmates manned tables to share information about the HPV vaccine, musculoskeletal injury prevention, and sleep hygiene. Others pricked fingers to screen for diabetes and offered blood-pressure checks.
Arie Lance, a third-year pharmacy student at Wingate’s Hendersonville campus, made the drive to Monroe to talk about mental health.
“Today we’re emphasizing mindfulness and sharing methods that people can use to deal with stress and anxiety,” Lance said. “We have a stress inventory that they can take to help them become more aware of the stress they may be experiencing. And we’re handing out journals, pens and other items that can help them deal with it.”
Carley Cribb, also a third-year pharmacy student, said working at the health fair was good preparation for her career, especially given that pharmacists are typically the healthcare professionals most accessible to the public. “I am passionate about meeting people and talking with them, so this is fun for me,” said Cribb, from Tabor City, N.C.
She said the fair gave health science students a chance to address a variety of issues and to clear up any misinformation that people may have gleaned from the Internet. She and Lance referred attendees interested in a mental health screening to occupational therapy students who were stationed in a classroom down the hall.
Students from the Harris Department of Physician Assistant Studies and representatives of the University’s public health program offered nutrition information, and nursing students helped children assemble healthy snacks and make stress-stopper balls in the Kids Zone.
PA students taught children basic anatomy by tracing their bodies on large paper and having them place paper organs in the right locations. At another station, kids got a lesson on oral health. Some also had their vision checked at the event.
Hannah Ross, a PA student from Fort Mill, S.C., said she enjoyed her time at the body-tracing station.
“In the classroom we get to see different aspects of patient care, but being at the health fair helps us learn how to interact more with people,” she said. “There’s a lot of different sides to patient care, and to be a PA we have to learn all of them.”
Her classmate Gabrielle Kolesar, from Mooresville, N.C., agreed.
“Everything in the classroom is very technical, with scientific terms,” Kolesar said. “So, explaining the body system to children in a way that they can understand, based on their level, breaking things down, is a skill that we need. And this is good practice.”
Volunteers with The Closet, a Heart for Monroe ministry, offered free clothing for all ages. Families could also pick up free books and school supplies.
Exhibitors at the event included the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Union County Community Action, Charlotte Days for Girls and Carolinas Care Partnership.
In addition to taking part in screenings and exhibits, attendees had a chance to register for door prizes, grab a hot dog lunch and hit the dance floor during three different sessions of Zumba led by a Wingate Campus Recreation instructor.
Lisa Dinkins, an associate professor of pharmacy and the University’s director of community health outreach, was pleased with the offerings, the number of volunteers and the collaboration with the Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle and Heart for Monroe. She said event organizers will review exit-survey data to consider ways to enhance future health fairs to serve the Union County community even better.