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Students help community members act FAST

Church basements and fellowship halls aren’t usually where you expect to find pharmacy research underway. But that’s exactly where some NDSU students took their skills to help members of the community.

Every 40 seconds, someone suffers a stroke. Knowing the signs of a stroke and how to lessen risk factors is important. In community settings, students and Dr. Marketa Marvanova share information on risk factors for stroke, along with additional education.

The outreach is part of a “Pharmacist-Led Stroke/TIA Risk Identification, Prevention and Care-Seeking Study in Fargo, North Dakota.” As chair of Pharmacy Practice, Marvanova piloted the study with seed funding from the College of Health Professions. 

The program aims to improve knowledge about stroke prevention, help people know the signs of stroke, and identify those who may need additional clinical care to decrease risk for stroke or a transient ischemic attack, commonly called a mini-stroke. 

More than 95 people participated in the program over four months. Marvanova partnered with care committees and parish nurses at several churches in Fargo to deliver the stroke awareness and education program.

Pharmacy students took blood pressures and heart rates while helping participants learn about risk factors, stroke prevention and signs of a stroke, including how to act FAST.

The acronym stands for Face—ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop? Arms—ask them to raise both arms and check if one arm drifts downward. Speech—ask the person to repeat a simple phrase and check if speech is slurred or strange. And Time—call 911 immediately.

What pharmacy students learn in community outreach events augments their classroom experience.

Sam Dwyer from Bemidji, Minnesota, hopes the experience will help him refine his ability to interact with patients. “I thought it was interesting at how appreciative the community was to having college students performing a health screening for them. They were encouraged by our presence and I was asked if I would ever be back again,” he said.

Michelle Bjerke, from Fosston, Minnesota hopes to learn more about patient outreach within the community and how a pharmacist can assist in important medical screenings.

Arianna Vidger of Fargo, North Dakota said the experience directly related to her studies. “One of my classes heavily covers cardiovascular risk factors and the prevention and treatment of diseases such as stroke and TIA,” said Vidger. “It is really interesting to see these theoretical concepts being used to actually identify patients who need additional attention.”

For parish nurses such as Katie Kringstad, it’s an opportunity. “If they do have high blood pressure or other things, then it could be caught to follow up with it. It could be life saving,” said Kringstad, who also served as a preceptor to help provide clinical experience for NDSU nursing students. 

Linda Bates from the care team at another church said the program was well received. “Your mission and passion for spreading the word on how we can control many parts of our health is one we need to hear,” said Bates.

If future funding becomes available, Marvanova hopes to offer the program to communities in rural areas as well.

You can make a difference

To learn how you can be part of the vision to enhance Sudro Hall and support the future of health professions education, contact Charles Peterson, dean of the college at and 701.231.7609 or the college Development Office at 701.231.6461.  

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Phone: +1 (701) 231-7456 / Fax: (701) 231-7606
Campus address: Sudro Hall 123
Physical/delivery address: 1401 Albrecht Boulevard, Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 2650 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Page manager: College of Health Professions

Last Updated: Friday, August 30, 2019 3:36:08 PM
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