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Wingate students band together to serve hundreds at health fair

by Luanne Williams

Monroe Middle School became a mecca Saturday for area families looking for health screenings, winter clothes and fall fun. Despite blustery winds and temperatures in the 40s, more than 700 people attended the Wingate University Health & Wellness Fair, hosted by the University, Monroe Middle and the nonprofit Heart for Monroe and sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

A physical therapy student performs a balance assessment at a health fair.

“It was truly a blessing to touch so many lives and connect them to valuable community health resources,” said Dr. Carolyn Ford, a pharmacy professor and the University’s director of community healthcare outreach. “I am so grateful for all who made this event a great success.”

Families began filing in at least an hour before the fair’s official 10 a.m. start to register and seek out needed services, many of which were provided by students in Wingate’s health science programs.

“I think the health fair really shows us how much we are needed in the community, because I feel like we genuinely educated people about diabetes today,” said Andrew Burch, a third-year pharmacy student from Wingate’s Hendersonville campus. “We had some great conversations.”

Brooke Balenger, from Lula, Georgia, another third-year pharmacy student, said the fair helped her see the disconnect between the information she takes for granted, having heard it repeatedly in classes, and what the public knows about diabetes.

Across the school cafeteria, Amy Hancock and other physician assistant students performed oral health screenings on adults and children.

“I learned about the effort that it takes when you are working with kids to get them to open their mouths, especially the really little kids,” Hancock said. “And I found out that a lot of parents don’t realize that they should go behind their children to make sure they are doing a good job brushing.”

A woman looks at a flu prevention poster at a health fair.

Pharmacy students offered tips on everything from flu-prevention to musculoskeletal injuries and handed out some free over-the-counter medications. At nearby booths, future physical therapists performed balance assessments, and occupational therapy students shared advice on getting a good night’s sleep. In the auditorium, fair-goers had their vision and blood pressure checked. And in the band room, Community Health Services of Union County offered cholesterol screenings and other health assessments.

Flu shots were given in Wingate’s mobile health unit outside and at an indoor table manned by Walgreens pharmacists. In addition to educational booths, the Union County Health Department provided interpreters to help Spanish-speaking residents connect with needed services.

Between visiting informational booths and picking up snacks or a hot-dog lunch, fair-goers could send their children to the Kid Zone in the gym while they shopped at Heart for Monroe’s popular mobile closet. Many left with large bags of winter clothes. 

In the Kid Zone, future PAs traced children’s bodies on butcher paper and helped them fill the outlines with pre-cut paper organs. Nursing students helped them make their own trail mix and stress balls. In a couple of classrooms down the hall, children could try making slime or painting pumpkins.

Kasha Giddens, principal of the Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle, couldn’t stop smiling as families rotated from station to station.

“My heart is full,” she said. “This has been a wonderful experience.”

Nov. 16, 2019