Vital Signs

Seeing the crush of people jockeying for an open seat at the big white tent might  make you wonder what kind of celebrity was in attendance. But instead, these visitors to the Corvallis Farmer’s Market were getting a gift: information that could improve their health, or even save their life.

Armed with blood-pressure cuffs, sterile lancets and stacks of brochures, about a dozen students from the OSU College of Pharmacy were on hand last summer to screen members of the public for high blood pressure and high blood glucose, as well as answer questions about heartburn, osteoporosis, asthma, smoking cessation and other common health concerns. Pharmacist “preceptors” (professionals who provide practical training to students) were on hand, too, to help answer questions.

“Hypertension is known as the ‘silent killer’ because there are no symptoms,“ said OSU pharmacy student Eduard Scheckmann, president of the OSU chapter of Oregon Health Systems Pharmacists.

A 69-year-old retiree named Larry was among several hundred Corvallis residents who took advantage of the screenings. “I’m not exactly in danger, but they’re going to keep an eye on me,” he said after getting his blood pressure checked.

OSU pharmacy students were in-demand at a free screening they held at the Corvallis Farmer's Market. Photo by: Yinxuan (Kelly) Zhang

His companion, Erlinda, wasn’t so sanguine. “Everything’s high — my blood sugar, my blood pressure,” she said. “I’m a little concerned. My sisters and my mom have diabetes. It’s good to catch it before it becomes a problem.”

Confessing that she hasn’t been taking the blood-pressure meds her doctor prescribed, Erlinda attributed her recalcitrance to worries about side effects — and to a bit of orneriness. “Does rebellious mean anything to you?” she said with a playful grin. But the high numbers revealed at the screening seemed to dilute her resistance. She planned to call her doctor. And that’s exactly what the College of Pharmacy screenings — sponsored by the Oregon State Student Pharmacists organization — are designed to do.

“The students raise money throughout the year to buy the medical supplies needed for the screenings,” Scheckmann reported.  “The goal is to make people aware of undiagnosed health problems. If their sugars are running high, or their blood pressure is elevated, we recommend that they see their primary-care provider.”

Also on hand for the screening was first-year student Glarih Yazdi Morgan, who chose a career in pharmacy because it offers the perfect blend of science and humanity. “I love chemistry, but I also love helping people,” she said. “I wanted something clinical and practical, where I could have close contact with patients. Pharmacy offers me everything in one place.”

The student-run screenings, which are held twice yearly at the Corvallis Farmer’s Market, offer some informational materials in Spanish. “We’re planning to translate more of our information into Spanish,” said first-year student Kylee Kastelic. “Our next step is to target an even bigger population by translating materials into Russian and Arabic.”




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