SOP Student Community Outreach: Fighting Red with PinkMore in this issue
School of Pharmacy students’ participation in the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health’s Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign yields rewards on many levels.
Awareness, prevention, cure. LAU’s School of Pharmacy (SOP) believes those three words can only exist in that order. That is why SOP Professional Year 1 students participated in the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health’s (MoPH) Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign Contest at a public event over a weekend this fall.
Eight SOP students promoted the campaign Fight Red with Pink, aimed at educating the public on the possible link between a diet high in red meat and breast cancer.
“Our job was to share information on why eating red meat may possibly increase the risk of cancer, how to cook it in a proper way, and what to use as a substitute in order to get the same amount of protein required for our diet,” explained Maria-Rita Lteif, one of the SOP student participants.
As one of six Lebanese universities participating in the MoPH’s health fair, the LAU team was awarded the prize for best booth, based on their interactive and creative material, evidence-based content, and engagement with the public.
“We made sure that every visitor left with a smile on their face,” said Lteif. “The games that they played helped them enjoy their time while gaining knowledge, and we made sure that each person felt loved and cared for before they left.”
“Our message was not just to eat healthy, but also to encourage people to take care of themselves,” she added.
Through the health fair, students were able to realize the personal impact that they can have on their communities as future healthcare professionals.
“When I participated in the event, the main objective I had in mind was that I wanted to share what I know with people because I might be saving a life,” said SOP student Ahmad Mohsen. “Through this event, I realized one of the duties of healthcare professionals: Patient education leads to the wellbeing of people.”
According to the MoPH, breast cancer constitutes 35 percent of all cancers among women in Lebanon. With approximately 2,000 new cases diagnosed each year – 49 percent of which are in patients under the age of 50 – awareness is essential to the health of the community. After all, there is relief in early detection, as cure rates can reach over 90 percent in cases caught early.
For this reason, the MoPH provides programs that bring the medical community together with Lebanese women to raise awareness of early detection methods, such as annual mammograms after the age of 40.
Dr. Rasha Hamra, director of the Public Relations and Health Education Departments at the MoPH and an alumna of LAU’s SOP, noted the importance of empowering students to raise cancer awareness in the local community: “The ministry decided to count on the mobilization of youth to carry the campaign message for better outreach. The students felt empowered and motivated, and they realized how they can play a major role in people’s lives when it comes to advising people about healthy lifestyles.”
And the students themselves felt that they achieved their goal for the event. “Spending an entire weekend talking to people, educating them, helping them, answering their questions, giving them advice, and putting a smile on their face made all the hard work worth it,” said Lteif.
Rosy Issa, another SOP student participant, concurred: “As a student, I felt that it’s important to participate in such an event in order to serve the community we live in by spreading awareness. I also feel that the Lebanese population needs to know a lot about the causes of cancer and how it can be prevented, since Lebanon has high cancer rates.”
SOP Dean Imad Btaiche believes outreach is an important part of the education process of future pharmacists, as developing soft skills is just as critical to patient care as the treatment itself.
“Empathy and sensitivity in treating patients, rather than their disease, is one of the pillars of being a successful healthcare professional. It is events like this that help our students hone their non-technical skills in order to make a difference in their community,” said Dr. Btaiche.
“Being a healthcare major, I learned that it is necessary for us to reach out to as many people as possible and try to help them and advise them,” said SOP student Omar Al Mahayni. “The event was the experience of a lifetime for me.”
One event, and one patient at a time, SOP students reaffirm their call as healthcare professionals committed to educating the Lebanese public.