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Student Feature: Hispanic Pharmacy Student Association

HPSA 23-24

Nuestros pacientes, nuestras comunidades

UHCOP Student Organization Focused on Reducing Disparities, Increasing Health Literacy Among Houston-area Hispanic Communities

Vaccine literacy, Spanish lessons, LatinX AIDS awareness – these are but a few activities hosted by UHCOP’s chapter of the Hispanic Pharmacy Student Association (HPSA). This local chapter of the national organization has spent the last decade educating pharmacy students, and in many instances, the pharmacy profession as a whole, on how to best care for our Hispanic communities. What’s more, HPSA puts actions behind its words and ventures out into the community to provide health care and education to the underserved and Spanish-speaking populations.

These activities earned the chapter a grant sponsored by the National Hispanic Health Foundation (NHHF) with support from the Rockefeller Foundation to serve the Houston Hispanic population on vaccine hesitancy. In addition to vaccine literacy, the grant assisted HPSA in completing a variety of projects throughout the last year, including:

  • ¡Viva tu Vida! Get Up! Get Moving! – hosted by the Hispanic Health Coalition where members provided blood glucose screenings and education;
  • Ripley House community resource health fair – provided blood pressure screenings and diabetes risk assessments and education;
  • City of Houston Mayor’s Back 2 School Fest – provided blood pressure screenings, diabetes education, childhood vaccination record screenings and translation services;
  • Vaccine Translation Workshop – collaborative event with SNPhA which taught COP students key Spanish terms and phrases related to giving vaccines; and
  • Mexican Consulate "Day of Health" – organized by HPSA’s service chair where officers and faculty advisor provided blood pressure and blood glucose education and screenings.

"This award has made us see that, as an organization, we are making a difference," said 2023-24 HPSA Chapter President Muhammed Alnakkash. "It has opened the door to others knowing that we are here, doing good work for the community, and that has given us the confidence to continue working harder and better."

The Hispanic population is reaching almost 40% just in the Houston metropolitan area and 45% in the entire Houston area, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

 "By helping our student pharmacists learn the Hispanic culture, by providing a rich interaction with this population during the four years of their studies, we are contributing to improving the health care of millions," Alnakkash said. "What we are helping do is shape a compassionate, understanding and educated health professional."

From HPSA’s numerous community service projects one reigned supreme this past April at UH’s Center for Student Involvement Leadership and Legacy Awards ceremony, earning them the Outstanding Program Award for "Building Community Through Vaccine Awareness and Equity." In addition, MariVi Tejada-Simon, Ph.D., M.Ed., HPSA’s faculty co-advisor since 2019, won Outstanding Advisor Award in the individual excellence category.

The organization was founded in 2013 as the Mexican American Pharmacy Student Association (MAPSA). In 2019, the leadership team saw that the group would be better represented using the term "Hispanic" because a lot of members and services were about much more than just Mexican-American groups. The change has opened up many opportunities for the chapter and its faculty co-advisors, Tejada-Simon and Natalie Rosario, Pharm.D., MPH, BCACP.

"Our advisors have been called to participate in the National Hispanic Health Foundation (NHHF) advisory committee," Alnakkash said. "They have provided feedback on the Rockefeller Foundation/NHHF partnership, as well as help in the translation and launch of the NHHF Vaccination Toolkit."

With Spanish lessons, health fairs, tabling events, baking activities and "Pharmilia" game night/social hour, HPSA keeps the celebration of Hispanic heritage going year-round.

"We try to celebrate all year by always bringing culture, history and tradition to everything we do," Alnakkash said.