Students at Augusta University conduct their annual health fair for farm workers

TRENTON, S.C. — Under a straw hat, a smile crossed Francisco Garcia’s deeply lined face Friday as he reflected on what years of going to the health fair at Costa Layman Farms has done for him and his health.

 

“I feel perfect for 60 years old,” said the supervisor at the nursery. “I feel very good.”

He is among the 3,000 who have received screenings and, more importantly, follow-up care in the 12 years that the College of Nursing at Augusta University and other schools have provided the comprehensive check-ups to the farm workers there. Over time that has evolved to clinics and care outside of the annual health far, said Dr. Lucy Marion, dean of the College of Nursing.

“When we do these screenings, we follow up,” she said. “That is a really important thing for students to learn. We don’t screen if we can’t care for them.”

The students who put together the more than 20 different screening areas each year “redesign this health fair slightly to reflect what they are seeing or what they saw last year,” Marion said. “It was during one of those sessions it became clear that they don’t get Pap smears here,” a screening women get for cervical cancer. That has led to an annual women’s clinic in October, said Lee Ann Liska, CEO of AU Medical Center, which had several of its nurses on hand to help.

The health fair also included faculty and students from Medical College of Georgia, Dental College of Georgia and the College of Allied Health Sciences that were providing an array of different assessments.

“What I’m impressed about is it is more comprehensive than any other health fair I’ve seen,” Liska said. “It’s a one-stop shop. In an hour or two, you can go through all of these stations and it would be like having appointments for weeks or months.”

That can be important for catching problems early, she said.

“What we love about this is that patients may assume they have some health issues but they may have something else completely unexpected that we may catch today,” Liska said.

It is also an important experience for the students, not only in the planning but in dealing with a population that may have language barriers, Marion said.

“If you don’t have another language, you need to know how to use interpreters properly and the other resources that are there,” she said. “We deal with all of that here.”

What happened Friday is the culmination of a year-round planning and assessment process and that is something employers want to see now, the ability to plan and evaluate programs, Marion said.

“Every nurse now is asked to look at the bigger picture and solve problems,” she said. “That’s what our students do when they are setting up the big production.”

 

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com

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