June 20-22, 2018
In June, SEAHEC hosted 19 health professions students from University of Arizona’s Border Latino & American Indian Summer Exposure to Research (BLAISER.) program. The students kicked off the 2018 BLAISER tour with an outreach campaign supporting SEAHEC’s work with Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) Office of Border Health (OBH) Border Infectious Disease Surveillance (BIDS) “Influenza Awareness & Vaccination History” campaign.
The students learned about the campaign from Mariana Casal, MD, MPH, MBA, an AZDHS OBH BIDS Officer, who provided the tour’s opening presentation with an overview of the state’s BIDS program and the recent rise in local influenza cases. SEAHEC is partnering with AZDHS this year to help gather data about vaccination rates in Santa Cruz County. SEAHEC’s partnerships with community organizations and local, state and federal agencies, provides local support for public health campaigns while building southeast Arizona’s health care workforce. SEAHEC internships provide hands-on community experience for university students pursuing health careers through SEAHEC’s Student Training Opportunities program, which hosted the three-day BLAISER tour.
On the morning of June 21st students divided into five groups and canvased Nogales, AZ neighborhoods to distribute health information and gather immunization data, which will be shared with the BIDS program. Knocking door to door, students were able to survey 160 community members. Canvassing brings students, many of whom have never been to a rural community, face to face with community residents and real public health issues.
“I have never done anything like that before, (going door to door) and it took me out of my comfort zone,” said one student of the canvassing experience.
“It was great!”
Students Reflect on Learning
After the canvassing event, SEAHEC Executive Director Gail Emrick, MPH welcomed BLAISER students to Nogales and provided an overview of SEAHEC programs, and a presentation on “Immigration and Border Communities.” The students then participated in an interprofessional binational discussion panel conducted by two Sonoran public health professionals and a local youth advocate who fielded questions from students about the history of their organizations and the benefits and challenges of working in a rural border community like Nogales, Az/Nogales, Son. Students also asked the panel about their motivations for serving in a rural setting. Panelists were Esther Solis-Blanco, MD, an epidemiologist and Yuridia Rodriguez, a promotora de salud and enfermera, (community health worker and public health nurse) both from the Centro de Salud Urbano, a unit of the Sonoran state health department, in Nogales Sonora, and Charlie Cutler, Executive Director of Border Youth Tennis Exchange (BYTE)
The students ended the first day of their tour in reflection and exchange of ideas with Ms. Emrick and Eladio Pereira, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Mariposa Community Health Center. The group reflected on their canvassing experience and discussed changes they can make in their personal habits to live a healthier life.
Visit to Tohono O’odham Nation
The following day the group traveled to Sells, AZ to meet with Bernard Siqueiros, Curator of Education, at Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center & Museum where students learned about Tohono O’odham history and culture. The group also visited Peter Reding, DO at Tohono O’odham Healthcare’s facility in Sells, where they toured Sells Hospital.
At the end of the day, students met with Gail Emrick to share thoughts on what they learned during the two-day service learning experience. Hands-on community experience, and the opportunity to meet and talk with rural health professionals can change students’ attitudes and beliefs about the value of serving in rural areas.
“I originally thought that clinical roles in rural/underserved populations had little opportunity for pursuing specialty medicine,” one student pointed out. “But [during the BLAISER tour] I was educated that rural medicine is very diverse and accommodating.”