ONU HealthWise Mobile Health Clinic and Mercy Health-St. Rita Medical Center renews partnership to offer enhanced regional healthcare services

(Pictured from left: Dr. Sean Gallagher, Mercy Health; Dr. Catherine Ruck, Mercy Health; Olivia Welch, PharmD ’21, ONU HealthWise pharmacist and pharmacy instructor; and Chase KyriasisPharmD ’21.)

A recent health emergency at an event in Lima, Ohio, illustrates how a five-year partnership extension between Ohio Northern University’s HealthWise Mobile Health Clinic and Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center will ensure that more lives are positively impacted.

According to Raabe College of Pharmacy faculty, the mobile health clinic staffed by students, faculty and physicians in St. Rita, was at a block party in Lima to offer free health screenings when a fourth-year pharmacy student detected high blood pressure in a woman who was 38 weeks pregnant. The team fears the cause is preeclampsia, a potentially fatal prenatal complication.

“With the help of Mercy Health’s on-site team, the patient was taken directly to the hospital,” where a C-section was performed and a healthy baby was born, Pharmacy Dean Stuart Beattie, PharmD ’03, said. Mother and baby are doing well.

In another case, a mobile health clinic patient suffering a heart attack was sent to Mercy Health.

“Some pretty amazing things” are happening thanks to the mobile clinic, Beatty said.

“We are grateful for our continued partnership with Mercy Health. The HealthWise Mobile Health Clinic is a powerful example of what is possible when multiple organizations join forces with a common goal,” said Michael RushPharmD ’05, director of the ONU HealthWise and Pharmacy Residency programs and assistant clinical professor of pharmacy practice.

The internal medicine specialists at St. Rita’s working with the mobile health clinic to further the service-based missions of both institutions provides significant value for the quality of healthcare expertise offered. Residents ensure the clinic operates as a “fully functioning primary care office on wheels,” Rush said. Complete physicals are available, and the clinic’s patients “can schedule appointments and follow-up for chronic conditions as they would with a physical primary care provider’s office,” he added.

The mobile health clinic, housed in a fully equipped 38-foot trailer, was launched in 2015 in response to studies that showed many residents throughout Hardin County experience significant poverty, have higher rates of disease and live in areas designated by the Health Resource and Services Administration as inadequate medical care. The clinic travels up to four times each week to churches, schools and other community locations in Hardin and Allen counties to help residents overcome barriers to access, cost and health care provider availability. Its purpose is to provide knowledge and resources to address health issues and empower people to improve their health.

The HealthWise Mobile Health Clinic, originally funded by a grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, operates under the auspices of ONU’s comprehensive HealthWise campus pharmacy and renowned academic program. It provides county residents with vital health and wellness services such as lipid, glucose and diabetes screenings; blood pressure checks; vaccinations; disease risk assessment; smoking cessation; and referring patients to primary care. The clinic also partners with organizations such as the Kenton-Hardin Health Department to operate efficiently.

In 2020, it was designated as a government-sponsored mobile mass vaccination clinic for COVID-19 vaccinations. Students and faculty vaccinated thousands of residents at fairgrounds, fire departments and other sites in 14 Ohio counties.

From an educational standpoint, the mobile clinic offers a one-of-a-kind hands-on experience for pharmacy students to practice their skills and engage with the surrounding community, including residents of underserved rural areas.

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