Student-organized fair offers free medical services

By Anne Halliwell

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The UK College of Medicine’s annual community health fair provided residents of Lexington and the surrounding area with free physicals, blood pressure screenings and other basic services on Sunday in and outside of the Biological-Pharmaceutical Building.

First- and second-year medical students staffed the event, which ran from 1-6 p.m.

The many booths and tables set up in and around the building offered information on community organizations including the Bluegrass Community Health Center, a family medical home and the Kentucky Pink Connection.

Approximately 80 second-year students planned the event with committees that specialized in areas like logistics and public relations.

Roughly 100 first-year students manned the event, directing patients to the correct areas, acting as translators and providing healthy snacks and drinks when the weather heated up.

“A lot of work goes into it, as you can imagine,” said Amanda Blau, a second-year medical student who volunteered at the fair last year and worked with the college of nursing this year.

Blau estimated that 20 local doctors and 18 registered nurses donated time to help with the physical screenings.

“Everything’s volunteer based,” she said. “All of the doctors are being super generous and volunteering their time.”

One of the student committees identifies the services that are most needed through a survey that the patients fill out at the end of their visit, said Fred Odago, a second-year medical student.

The students then use that information to contact vendors and organizations that can provide information on those services at the next year’s fair.

Odago sees the fair as a way for people in the community to get information and access to health care options that they may not have been aware of.

“We tried to invite different vendors who could lead people to continued care… so that coming out of here they could have a contact, so that when they go back home, they have some way to continue their care outside of this,” he said.

Lisa Keene, a resident of Lexington and first-time visitor to the fair, appreciates the services and information that the fair provides.

As a diabetic, she planned on having her blood pressure tested. Keene also planned on talking to women’s health specialists, who helped her arrange transportation to treatment clinics in the area.

Although Keene did express a wish for more dental services, she said getting access to health care providers without having to take a bus would “put her mind at ease.”

She added that the staffers seemed friendly, and that they wanted to help.

Odago said that the community health fair is an important fixture.

“I think there are two parts…” Odago said, “I think the first part has to show that the university is part of the community… we are providing to a community that needs health care. The second part is because most people do not have health insurance and most people don’t have access to health care, so this is a way for us to provide free access to that.”

Odago added, “The university is involved in the community, and at the same time we are giving a service that we know the community needs.”