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Students, Preceptors Provide 2,500+ Education, Wellness and Immunization Screenings at Annual Houston Back 2 School Event 

Aug. 10 — Saturday, August 5 was anything but generic for University of Houston College of Pharmacy (UHCOP) Pharm.D. students, faculty and preceptors who participated in the 2023 City of Houston Mayor’s Back 2 School Fest at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The one-day event, which drew over 25,000 attendees this year, has served Houston’s resource-limited elementary school students and their parents and guardians for more than a decade.

With a hearty dose of Cougar compassion and commitment, over 50 pharmacy students completed more than 2,500 patient interactions spanning health education/awareness on a variety of topics as well as blood pressure, pre-diabetes and childhood immunization record screenings.

Student involvement for the event was coordinated by UHCOP’s American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists Chapter, under the leadership of Chapter President Tammie Lam and Vice President of Patient Care Mattie Sullivan and its faculty co-advisors David Wallace, Pharm.D., and Bernadette Asias-Dinh, Pharm.D., BCACP, BCPS, CDCES.

"The Mayor's Back 2 School Fest showcased our students' ability to seamlessly blend professionalism with a vibrant educational atmosphere," Lam said. "This event was more than just a tradition; it was an embodiment of our commitment to community engagement, education and collaboration."

Collegewide Effort

Among the student organizations whose members joined in the effort were Hispanic Pharmacy Students Association (HPSA), National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), Pharmaceutical Association of the Middle East and South Asia (PhAMSA), Student College of Clinical Pharmacy (SCCP), Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) and the Student Society of Health-System Pharmacists (SSHP). In addition, several members of the Gulf Coast Society of Health-System Pharmacists volunteered to serve as preceptors during the event.

Nearly 150 attendees received pre-diabetes and/or blood pressure screenings, with more than one-half identified as at-risk for diabetes or elevated blood pressure who were then counseled on dietary and lifestyle modifications as well as encouraged to consult with their primary care provider.

With the vaccination records screenings provided by UHCOP Pharm.D. students, City of Houston healthcare providers administered more than 200 vaccinations, mostly to children needing updated routine vaccinations.

Informed Choices

In addition, pharmacy students initiated health education outreach, which included:

  • Teaching medication safety by testing the ability to distinguish between candy and medicine;
  • Encouraging health-conscious choices by visually representing the sugar content in popular candy, sodas and energy drinks in comparison with water and fruit; and
  • Bringing awareness to the importance of both physical and mental health through interactive activities.

"Beyond educating children, we contributed to shaping a more comprehensive understanding of our profession within the broader community," Lam said. "This experience emphasized the crucial role of communication and outreach in fostering awareness and highlighting pharmacists' vital contributions to health care."

Showcasing Pharmacy Profession

Children were all smiles when they were invited to try on a white coat, giving them a hands-on experience of what it is like to be a pharmacist.

"For me, a standout moment was the privilege of educating children about the expansive role of pharmacists," Lam said. "Witnessing their curiosity and interest light up as we unveiled the diverse responsibilities pharmacists undertake was truly heartening. Engaging with these young minds, we showcased our capacity to administer vaccines, conduct screenings, and even provide life-saving interventions in emergencies."

UHCOP has participated in the event every year since 2013, with the exception of 2020 and 2021 due to the shift to a drive-through, no-contact format for pandemic safety precautions.