By Lee Sherman
On the surface, Sunghee Hong and Bill Anderson don’t appear to have much in common. But Hong, dressed in the snow-white coat of a third-year pharmacy student, and Anderson, wearing a raggedy ball cap stamped with a “Retired Navy” logo, quickly discover a point of connection at OSU’s September rally in Pioneer Courthouse Square.
“I’ve been around the world a couple of times,” Anderson tells Hong as she prepares to prick his finger for a free blood glucose test being offered by the College of Pharmacy. “I’ve been all over the western Pacific.”
“Have you been to South Korea?” Asks Hong, telling him that’s her ancestral homeland.
“Sure,” replies Anderson, a Navy jet mechanic who retired in 1997. “I was in Pusan.”
Anderson is just the sort of person OSU pharmacy students are targeting at their booth on this overcast autumn day in downtown Portland, where they’re screening for high blood pressure and high blood-sugar levels, as well as giving flu shots and information on antibiotics and other health topics. “I haven’t had my blood sugar tested since I don’t know when,” he says. An ex-smoker who suffered a heart attack several years ago, he’s on medication for high cholesterol and uric acid, as well as drugs for his heart. Potentially, he’s at risk for diabetes, too.
“This portion of the event we call Operation Diabetes,” says third-year student Ian McClellan. “Besides taking blood glucose measurements, we’re provided counseling on diabetes prevention, disease state management, and medication management, if needed. I’m also providing information about diabetes in general and answering any specific questions the public may have about the condition.”
So, as the university marching band blares in the background, Hong draws a droplet of blood into a hand-held diabetes testing meter and reads the results.
“Your glucose level is 143,” says Hong. “That’s a little bit concerning. Anything above 140 we consider high.” Anderson admits to having eaten a Big Mac, fries and a Coke within the hour, a fact that could explain his elevated numbers. Still, Hong is worried.
“You should watch your diet — eat more vegetables, less meat,” she says, her facial expression kind but serious. “And I strongly recommend that you see a doctor.”
Meanwhile, as Hong and Anderson confer, a long line is forming at the flu shot station, where Professor Craig Williams is standing by to offer counsel and answer questions for the students administering the shots. Third-year student Abby Floeter loads a syringe with vaccine, one of 30 doses purchased for $9 each from Albany’s Medicap Pharmacy by the college for the event. Floeter and several of her fellow students took a special course sponsored by the American Public Health Association to become certified to give shots at the Portland Rally.
A young woman who identifies herself as a recent graduate of Portland State University extends her arm. Floeter inserts the long needle into her muscle. The woman is grateful for the chance to fend off the flu germs that emerge with the coming of cold, wet weather. “It’s an awesome service,” she says.
Elsewhere under the tent, people browse through brochures — even coloring books for little kids — about the dangers of bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics, either because they are over-prescribed or improperly taken.
“The public isn’t really aware that antibiotics don’t work against viruses,” says Eduard Scheckmann, a third-year student.
Second-year student Tabitha Purice adds: “We really stress that you need to finish your prescription even if you’re feeling better — you need to take all of your antibiotics to make sure all of the bacteria are killed. Otherwise, they may stay in your system and build resistance. Doctors don’t stress that enough. That’s where the pharmacist comes in.”
A woman wearing an American Red Cross T-shirt wanders over to the tent, where Ian McClellan welcomes her. “We’re doing blood glucose and blood pressure screenings today,” he says.
“That would be fabulous,” she says, identifying herself as Sandy Parkin, a 45-year-old marketing manager for the Red Cross. “I have a few extra minutes, so I might as well see if I’m healthy or not. I need to lose weight, so I’m always concerned.”
The results surprise her. “Everything’s perfect,” she says with a relieved smile.
For the day, Operation Diabetes performed 35 blood glucose measurements and 37 blood pressure measurements.