Students offer health screenings for the homeless

Program benefits those needing shelter and students doing screenings.

A group of local medical students is offering free health screenings at area shelters in an effort to promote healthier lifestyles for the homeless.

“Our focus is on empowering people toward positive improvements,” said Jordan Nicholls, a third-year professional pharmacy student at Cedarville University. “We meet with them and ask how we can help address certain barriers for them.”

Students go to the shelters three times a month and offer blood sugar testing, blood pressure screening and BMI checks.

Students do not diagnose medical conditions or prescribe treatments, but they discuss health issues with shelter residents and connect them with medical services.

“More than anything, a lot of the guests at the shelter just need someone to talk to about their health concerns and situation in general,” said Nick Christian, a third-year student at Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine. “We help them identify issues with how they view their life and their health care. When they leave the room, they’re so much more animated than when they came in.”

The program, Students Teaching Educational Plans for Success, was first initiated by Wright State University in 2012 at the St. Vincent de Paul Gateway’s shelter for men. Now, the program is comprised of pharmacy, psychology, physician assistant and medical students from Wright State University, Cedarville University, Kettering College and the University of Dayton, and operates at the women’s shelter as well.

“The STEPS program focuses on wellness,” said David Bohardt, St. Vincent de Paul executive director. “Even the smallest success, like persuading a guest to take his blood pressure medication, or to improve his diet, can prove to be big steps on the road to self-reliance.”

Nicholls said that the program has also given the students a better understanding of health care.

“This program focuses on more than the physical health of each individual,” said Nicholls. “They’re not just a smoker or a homeless person; they are a person, and it’s our job as health care professionals to not just look at the surface, but to look at each as an individual.”

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