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APhA-ASP Chapter Photo
The UHCOP Chapter of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Pharmacy Students, pictured above, won the Operation Heart Award at the 2023 APhA-ASP Midyear Regional Meeting.

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UHCOP APhA-ASP Chapter Wins Operation Heart Award at Regional Meeting

December 22 – The University of Houston College of Pharmacy American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) Chapter proved it has a heart of gold when it comes to cardiovascular health, with its Operation Heart initiative taking the Region VI title at the 2023 APhA-ASP Midyear Regional Meeting Nov. 3-5 in Washington, D.C.  

During the 2022-23 academic year for which the regional award competition covers, the chapter’s Operation Heart team focused on the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease through wellness screenings and educational outreach in the community and friendly competition among peers over the span of 19 events. Operation Heart is a patient-care initiative led by Senior Chair May Vorarath, who also served as the chapter’s 2022-23 vice president of patient care, and Junior Chairs Merlyn Varghese, Alison Cano and Brandy Tran.

Highlights of the Operation Heart’s activities included participation in the 2022 City of Houston Mayor’s Back 2 School Fest, a day-long event that drew more than 20,000 children and their adult parents or caregivers in preparation for a successful school year through demonstrations, giveaways and enrollment in various social and health services.

At the event, the chapter’s Operation Heart team conducted more than 200 blood pressure screenings – with approximately 65 percent showing abnormal readings – and more than 100 receiving vaccination or prediabetes assessments. Team members also presented education on topics such as blood glucose monitoring, medication safety, healthy diet and tobacco cessation as well as the opportunity to hear one’s heartbeat through a stethoscope.

“During the Mayor’s Back2School Fest, we not only screened individuals for their blood pressure but also conversed with them about simple strategies that they could implement to help lower their blood pressure, incorporate healthy lifestyle changes, and ultimately, protect their cardiovascular health,” Varghese said. “I believe as pharmacists it is crucial to listen to the concerns of our patients and constantly provide them with encouragement necessary to promote strategies leading to preventative care.”

During American Heart Month in February, the Operation Heart team organized a steps competition among fellow students and educated their peers on various aspects of cardiovascular health – including cardiac rehabilitation, women’s heart health and sudden cardiac arrest awareness -- through posters displayed in Health 2.  The 25 steps competition participants logged an impressive 3.6 million steps through personal fitness trackers with results then relayed to competition coordinators.

“Engaging in events like the steps competition and contributing to educational initiatives during American Heart Month offer our chapter valuable experiences that extend beyond traditional pharmacy roles,” Vorarath said. “By actively participating in community outreach and health education, we are gaining real-world understanding of public health challenges and the role pharmacists play in preventive care.”