Florida Keys Health Fair helps over 1,000 patients

UM medical students, faculty and physicians recently participated in the annual Florida Keys Health Fair [FKHF], a Meds/Peds program offered by the UM School of Medicine for over 30 years. The premise of this program is to provide free and precautionary screening medical care to medically underserved areas and outlines three pillars: leading, training and educating.

This year, UM led volunteer teams composed of approximately 250 students and doctors to the sites throughout the Keys. This endeavor is funded by the newly created Department of Community Service [DOCS], a student-run organization that receives grants and donations from pharmaceutical companies, local organizations, alumni and parents to continuously make this project, as well as others, a success. DOCS seeks to centralize the efforts of the various health fairs run through the Medical School.

“It’s hard enough to be a medical student, and it’s worse yet when you feel that you’re reinventing the wheel each time as a new class of students takes the lead in setting up a health fair,” Jorge Alex Alvarez, director of operations of this year’s FKHF, said. “DOCS is an attempt to address those issues.”

To participate in this community service project, the team must be well trained to handle the high level of responsibility they hold. This project is integrated into the curriculum in the School of Medicine to give students well-rounded exposure to medical issues in underprivileged areas of the world.

“I heard various stories about how this year’s participants expressed gratitude in having their need for health care screenings met,” Alvarez said. “Also, I witnessed many students who selflessly volunteered their time and effort in organizing various aspects of the fair.”

In total, the UM team was able to help over 1,000 patients, both adults and children, a substantial increase from last year. The biggest aid to children came in the form of developmental screening. For adults, UM students and physicians assessed fundamental vitals such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels and diabetes.

In Key West, the team also provided cancer and HIV/STD screening for adults, and bicycle safety instructions for children.

Dr. Niraj Sharma, a three-year faculty advisor for this mission and the program director of the Internal Medicine/Pediatrics Residency Training Program, directed the team in Key West.

“One of the most important goals we have is to provide a tremendous amount of education to the patients,” Sharma said. “We do our best to get the community involved.”

According to Sharma, one of the emerging trends in children is the growing rate of obesity. For adults, the most frequent problem is diabetes, which leads to hypertension.

The UM team will be returning to the sites on Saturday, Feb. 21, to inform the patients of their lab results.

For more information, contact Dr. Niraj Sharma at 305-585-5954 or visit www.FKFH.org or www.UMDOCS.org.

Shalu Patel can be contacted at s.patel16@umiami.edu.