Prior to PA school, I worked as a respiratory therapist and volunteered at an asthma camp in my home state of Utah. I was disheartened to learn that such a camp had not been held in Connecticut for more than 10 years, and the closest one was more than 200 miles away in Lake George, N.Y.
Realizing this, I began doing some research on how I could help fill the need for asthma education for underserved children in the greater New Haven, Conn., area, where I attend school. I applied for a Paul Ambrose scholarship to gain funding for a local asthma camp.
I put together a plan with my clinical advisor, Terry O’Donnell. We decided to host a camp this past summer for children between ages 6−12. It would take place on Quinnipiac University’s North Haven Campus. We decided to focus on four areas critical to the understanding of asthma: lung anatomy, triggers, medication administration and coping skills.
In April, the scholarship funding was awarded for the camp. With extensive help from the community and media involvement, we were able to host children at the first annual Free Connecticut Asthma Camp on Aug. 2.
Four stations were set up for the kids to visit during the six-hour event.
- At the “Making Your Own Mucous” station, the children learned about mucous and that it thickens when they have an asthma exacerbation, as well as the tools necessary to help manage disease complications.
- During the “Pop of Play Balloon” game, kids covered balloons in shaving cream and then slowly shaved it off, while answering questions about asthma symptom triggers.
- In “Trigger Hunt,” scavenger hunters searched for certain triggers and talked about their own triggers and how they learned to cope and manage them.
- During the “Asthma Olympics,” the camp turned into a large obstacle course, and the kids played a relay game where all the learning materials were put together. The children answered questions on medications, medication administration, newly learned coping skills and their overall feelings about living with asthma.
In addition to the kids’ activities, we also provided a question and answer session for parents where they had the opportunity to ask a pulmonary physician questions about their child’s asthma. The goal was to provide parents with some time where they didn’t feel rushed and could get all the information they needed—ultimately leading to improvements in their child’s health.
Overall, it was a great day! It wouldn’t have been possible without our multiple donors and the community’s support. With their help, we were able to provide each child with reading material, spacers, action plan education and some fun toys in their take away bags.
After the camp event, we received emails from some participants telling us how much fun their child had and how they were still talking about their camp experience. To us, that sounds like success!
Most importantly, the camp allowed five different disciplines of medicine (PAs, MDs, social work, pharmacy and dental) to come together and educate children on their asthma. It provided a unique learning environment mixing fun with health education.
In our busy lives as students and professionals, it’s important for us to provide and participate in opportunities that give back to the communities we live and practice in. These public health activities create awareness and provide education for those in need. They allow us to share our knowledge with those who can benefit the most.
The Quinnipiac University PA program, in conjunction with the University of Connecticut’s Urban Service Track—a program offering interprofessional training and mentoring of health profession students— will continue to host this event at Quinnipiac. There are also plans to expand the event to the greater Hartford area.
Nicole Cottle is a second-year PA student at Quinnipiac University with an interest in public health and public health initiatives.
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