When Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy student Megha Shah began her internship at the Ozanam Family Shelter in Edison, she was prepared to improve the health literacy of the residents. What she didn’t realize was how much the residents would teach her.
As part of the Bridging the Gaps Community Health Internship, Shah spent seven weeks developing a health education program at the emergency shelter that houses 16 single women and 26 families. She created four two-hour classes (women’s health, staying safe, medication safety, and dental and oral hygiene) and with each class, her audience grew and the sessions became more interactive.
By providing resources in an accessible way, Shah demonstrated how the women could prioritize their health and wellness as part of their daily routine. She also had to navigate an age gap.
“Many of these women were older and had children. I had to figure out a way to relate to them, to approach them casually so they wouldn’t think I was lecturing them,” she said. “I approached each class from the perspective of camaraderie: ‘Woman to woman, let’s have a heart to heart.’”
At the end of the internship, Shah coordinated details for St. Peter’s Healthcare System’s mobile van to provide blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol screenings and also created health packets for the shelter to distribute to women when they leave.
Originally considering employment in retail pharmacy, Shah now aims to work with underserved communities to continue to improve health literacy in marginalized groups.
“There’s so much education a pharmacist can do from a retail standpoint,” she says. “I believe I can change more lives by serving this population.”
Excerpted from Rutgers Today