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HHPO wins first annual College of Natural Sciences Service Award

HHPO wins first annual College of Natural Sciences Service Award

HHPO-PhotoFor its work conducting health screenings in the Hispanic and African-American communities in east Austin, the Hispanic Health Professions Organization (HHPO) has been awarded the first annual College of Natural Sciences Service Award.

“Their work really shows how students can take what UT affords them and bring it back to the Austin community,” says Stephanie Hsu, a member of the Student Advisory Council, which chose the winner.

Working with the American Heart Association, and with local pharmacies, churches, community centers and health professionals, the students from the HHPO were able to conduct cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose screenings for more than 700 people in east Austin over the course of the school year.

In addition to simply providing the test results, the students were able to offer health literature, a list of local clinics, and, if the test results were abnormal, consults with a physician from the Hispanic Physicians Association as well as testing supplies like glucose meters.

“We have two directives,” says Jose Pena, the outgoing president of HHPO. “Our professional development is oriented toward the future. It’s about how can we help our members prepare to be competitive applicants to health professions schools. Our community development is more about what can we do here, now.”

The health screenings, says Pena, ultimately serve both purposes. They help the community, and they offer the participating students a chance to get valuable experience providing care and education to a typically underserved community.

“You don’t need to be a nurse or a doctor to do these tests,” says Pena. “As long as there’s a supervising nurse or supervising physician there, it’s fine.”

In order to reach as wide a cross-section of the east Austin community as possible, HHPO worked with a number of different organizations. The group solicited donations of money and equipment from local pharmacies and doctors, and then partnered with the Austin Hispanic Physicians Association to conduct screenings at local churches. They set up a screening booth at the annual Festival Hispano de Salud, which is organized by the American Heart Association (AHA).

In the Spring, the HHPO joined the AHA in involving local churches and community centers in the Search Your Heart/Conozca Su Corazon challenges, which are friendly competitions to see which group can improve its health values the most over a six month period.

“We’d go out to the churches and community centers—ten of them—and do a pre-assessment of cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels,” says Pena. “We’d also provide resources and literature to help them get healthier. The church or the community center with the most progress receives scholarships and a lot of other resources that they can take back to their congregation and community members.”

In addition to its involvement in health screenings, the HHPO has created a 6-week health and nutrition unit which members teach to a class of 4th and 5th graders at Zavala Elementary School, and they’ve partnered with the Seton Family of Hospitals to promote Nutrition Awareness Month.

The HHPO, which has about 45 active members, includes a diverse mix of Hispanic and non-Hispanic students who are committed to the broad goal of improving Latino health. They meet twice a month, sponsor trips to medical and other health professions schools, host socials, and arrange for their members to shadow doctors and volunteer in local hospitals.

The CNS Service Award, which was created to recognize a student group that’s gone above and beyond in its service to the community outside of campus, recognizes the winning group in a few ways. A photo of the group is featured on the cover of the student organization handbook. The group’s name will be etched into a plaque in the Dean’s office. And the college throws a pizza party for their membership at the end of the year.

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Tuesday, 07 February 2023

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