PA Students Team Up to Take On Hunger, Aging Concerns

By Purnell T. Cropper | November 3, 2014

Story submitted by Bridget McHugh, PA-S and Rebekah Hallerman, PA-S

Over the summer, more than 100 students in Arcadia University’s Physician Assistant program volunteered to give back and to learn more about the unique challenges that different populations of patients face every day.

All 55 students from the Glenside campus traveled to Philadelphia several days throughout August to volunteer with Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA), a nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive nutrition services to those in acute nutritional risk. Students rose at 5 a.m. to help prepare meals and deliver them to the doors of program participants. While the start time may not have been something they were used to, the students claimed that it was rewarding to see the look of relief on the faces of those who were receiving meals.

“Good health starts with nutrition, and our volunteer experience with MANNA showed me that with a little bit of giving back, you can truly make a difference in someone’s overall well being,” said Lexi Lucia, PA-S, a first-year student in the PA program.

Volunteers at MANNA have provided such nutrition since 2006, cooking and delivering three meals a day, seven days a week to people who are unable to provide for themselves or their families due to life-threatening and chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, renal disease, or cancer.

“MANNA empowers its participants by educating and nourishing them with meals that are specifically modified to address their dietary restrictions as defined by their diagnosis,” said Melissa Justice, MHS, PA-C, assistant professor at the Glenside campus, who organized the trip. “As a result, their health outcomes and quality of life are often improved.”

The PA program has continued this service relationship by participating in MANNA’s fundraising event, Pie in the Sky, which begins Monday, Nov. 3.

Giving essentials to communities in need

Also in August, 28 students from Arcadia’s Christiana campus volunteered at the Food Bank of Delaware (FBD), packing more than 500 lunches for children in schools and assembling boxes of food for senior citizens who cannot afford nutritional food or experience difficulties getting to the grocery store on their own. At the end of the day, Arcadia students were given a tour of the facility and learned about the role FBD plays in combating hunger in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Upon departure, students were proud to have participated in something much bigger than themselves: fighting hunger.

Kimmy Colvin, PA-S, enjoyed learning about the culinary program that the Food Bank offers to previously incarcerated adults because it “help[s] give them a marketable skill,” she said. She also appreciated having the opportunity to “contribute to feeding thousands of tri-state area residents in need.”

In addition, 20 students from Christiana helped update medical cards for elderly residents of Episcopal Place at Park Row and Jenner’s Pond, senior living communities in Chester and West Grove, Pa., respectively. With the increase in age often comes an upturn in various illnesses that require a variety of medications, each with distinct dosages and directions. Keeping track of these medications can become confusing or frustrating, especially for patients suffering from dementia. Having a properly updated medical card is essential for a patient to receive the most efficient and proper care.

“It was a great opportunity to meet some of our first patients and learn about their knowledge and experience in health care,” said Abby Lang, PA-S. “We learned about the complexities of patient compliance and management of pharmaceuticals while working with a bright group of pharmacy students. It was fun to experience these three elements of a care team coming together to complete a task.”