Graduate physical therapy students support community with free health fair

Katie Langley and Jacklyn Pellegrino

Quinnipiac University physical therapy (PT) senior graduate students hosted a free health fair on Oct. 16, at the Keefe Community Center in Hamden as part of their capstone project. 

Organizers offered both Zoom and in-person options. Presentations were provided in both English and Spanish. 

Hamden residents attended a free health fair at the Keefe Community Center on Oct. 16. (Riley Millette/Chronicle)

Julianne Smith, one of the student organizers, said the partnership with the center was a great opportunity to help out the larger community. 

“The whole point of the capstone is to have that partnership and that community connection,” Smith said. “That way, we can work on identifying the needs of the Keefe Center and the needs of the community and offer our help. We are trying to bridge the gap between the community and those health resources.”

Smith said as many as 30 people came to the fair, counting families with children. 

The center provides many community resources, such as a monthly diaper bank and a food pantry on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

EQUIP Rehabilitation had a table at the fair to provide a free physical therapy clinic. (Riley Millette/Chronicle)

There were different demonstrations at the fair such as tabling and presentations on nutrition, chronic illness, heart disease, diabetes, women’s health and breast cancer. The fair also offered drive-through child car seat checks through Safe Kids Worldwide.

“Safe Kids did do one car seat safety check for someone who came from Bridgeport,” said Julie Booth, associate director of clinical education in PT. “The car seat was installed incorrectly so they fixed this and the Dad is coming this week to have the car seat in his car reinstalled.”

Quinnipiack Valley Health District was at the fair to offer COVID-19 vaccines. Even though Booth said none were administered, volunteers were able to share information on the importance of getting booster vaccines. 

Suzanne Powell was one of the presenters at the event advocating for breast cancer awareness with the Connecticut wisewoman program. Powell encouraged people to come to a mobile mammogram clinic at the center next week. 

“Get your yearly screenings so that you can catch it early, and we’re here to support you,” Powell said. 

Another table at the event was EQUIP Rehabilitation. Rachel Harris, a member of the free physical therapy clinic, said that EQUIP provides community resources and screenings and currently runs classes on campus with the North Haven Senior Center. 

“We are hoping that people see that physical therapy has a huge role in wellness and prevention in general and not just rehabilitating from injury,” Harris said.

We are hoping that people see that physical therapy has a huge role in wellness and prevention in general and not just rehabilitating from injury.”

— Rachel Harris, Quinnipiac's fitness instructor

Nicole Mawhirter and Christina DePaulis are part of the Quinnipiac graduate PT club. They presented on back and spine health and how physical therapy benefits people.

“We hope people learn some tips about posture, body mechanics and sleep habits as well as some general education on physical therapy,” DePaulis said.

The organizers said they hope that people who attended the fair will take care of their health and will be aware of the resources available to them.

“As future health care providers, we can work on getting that community connection and practice connecting our patients to the proper resources that they need to promote their health and wellness and make sure that they know how to be an active participant in their health care,” Smith said.

Meaghan Johnson and Gabrielle Neiss, both sophomore nursing majors, said they did not hear about the free health fair. However, they believe that this fair would be another way for people to gain access to health care and will be beneficial for the community.

“We’re students in the school of nursing and overall inter-professionalism with working with different providers is really important so I think the more that people know about it the more people can work together and really emphasize the inter-professional aspect of health science programs at Quinnipiac,” Johnson said.

Preventive care was the emphasis of the fair, with student organizers such as Reilly Zajac trying to reduce the amount of preventable illness. 

“Even if just one person goes and gets a cancer screen or just one person changes their nutrition so they can stop taking their diabetes medicine, it will have a very impactful and meaningful purpose for the fair,” Zajac said.

Organizers stressed nutrition during the fair by offering healthy food such as fresh fruit. 

Meaghan Scullin, another organizer from the PT program, said that many people coming to the fair rely on the food bank because they do not have access to healthy foods.

“We are providing an incentive to come that we have healthy foods, health screenings and COVID vaccines but at the same time we are giving people the tools and the knowledge that they need to take care of their own health,” Scullin said.

Scullin said that it should be a priority for Quinnipiac to give back to the Hamden community.