Loma Linda University students host Healthy Neighborhoods Celebration health fair
Maryann Bautista with her son Jose, from San Bernardino, gets her blood pressure taken by Lisa Turner, a physician’s assistant at Loma Linda University Medical Center.
A student-initiated and student-run community service program called the Healthy Neighborhoods Project (HNP) hosted the first Healthy Neighborhoods Celebration health fair since 2002. On Sunday, October 8, the HNP sponsored a community-focused health fair at SACHS–Norton on East 3rd Street in San Bernardino. The community was invited to take part in screenings and awareness exhibitions on breast and skin cancer, diabetes, immunizations, obesity, dental health, and child safety, among others.
The health professional students at LLU have a longstanding involvement in the Norton Neighborhoods, a largely uninsured and medically underserved population in San Bernardino. The health fair initially began in 2001 as part of a “Caring for Communities” grant by Pfizer/AMA that two medical students received to begin the Community Kids Connection tutoring/mentoring program. The health fair and race were supposed to be the fundraiser to keep the tutoring/mentoring program going. The health fair and race continued for two years, then in 2003, the event was cancelled due to the fires that ravaged the Inland Empire.
This year, under the direction of Leslie Hsu, a fourth-year medical student and the health fair director, and with sponsorship from LLUMC–East Campus’s PossAbilities program and the Inland Empire Health Plan, the health fair was resurrected with many student booths and community booths for educational purposes for the San Bernardino community.
Besides the (mostly) annual health fair, the mentoring and academic tutoring programs that are part of the Healthy Neighborhood Project give Loma Linda University students the opportunity to form ongoing friendships with local children and parents. The three student-led mentoring programs are:
Community Kids Connection (CKC) tutoring matches Loma Linda University students with a child from the low-income neighborhoods of San Bernardino. They meet weekly to help the younger student with homework and to build a mentoring relationship. Last year, more than 150 LLU students volunteered more than 2,500 hours for these children at three different locations in San Bernardino. The program has also recently expanded to include conversational English class for the mothers of participating children.
Project HOPE. To fill the gap of providing health care to San Bernardino’s parenting teens, Project HOPE was started. Two years ago, only one nurse provided health education for more than 500 parenting teens in the San Bernardino City Unified School District. Today, with the supervision of the department of pediatrics, LLU student volunteers meet weekly with these teens to provide health information on prenatal care and parenting skills. Students have helped numerous teens reach their education goals and become nurturing mothers through this mentoring program.
Special opportunities. This program provides individual mentoring for boys identified by school administrators as at-risk for academic failure or behavioral problems. Male students from LLU meet weekly at the high school campuses with their assigned students to form positive relationships and serve to become role models. The program has doubled in size this year and has added outdoor activities/camping in addition to mentoring and tutoring.
All three mentoring programs are student-initiated and student-run to this day and are based in the School of Medicine. They have been very successful in the mission to serve the San Bernardino community’s youth.
By Preston Clarke Smith