Outreach Opportunity Takes Audiology Students to Guatemala

“Refreshing,” said Benjamin Thompson ’18. “Incredible,” said Eun “Rudi” Kim ’18. “Joyful,” said Susanna Marshall ’18. The experience of providing hearing health care to patients in rural Guatemala impacted each of the three doctor of audiology students in a unique way. Pacific’s audiology program partnered with Entheos Audiology Cooperative to send a team of 30 volunteers, including audiologists and audiology students, to Panajachel, Guatemala.

“It’s my first time in Guatemala and I didn’t really know what to expect,” Kim said. “So, I came here with an open mind. It’s a beautiful country and people are so receptive. I just feel really grateful to be here; to be part of this team.”

Marshall also expressed gratitude at having the opportunity to work with this team. She elaborates, “Every single one of the audiologists on this trip are amazing. Each one of them brings different skills and different knowledge. They are all incredible teachers as well. […] It was an honor to be able to work with them as a student; to be given that opportunity.”

Entheos is committed to taking hearing health care to patients who otherwise would not have access to these services. Their international outreach has included sending teams of volunteers to Haiti, Jordan and Zambia. Marshall shares, “For some of the individuals we helped, some of the children for example, we gave them the chance to learn spoken language that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. The joy on their faces was really obvious. Even though there is a language barrier, to see them smile when they could hear with the hearing aids, that says it all and there are no words needed for that.” Thompson adds, “There’s a lot to smile about.”

For Thompson, the trip reinforced that there is a marriage of art and science in the profession of audiology. He explains, “There is a science of what we do and there is an art of what we do. Each professional brings their own artistic perspective and way that they approach communication or a hearing aid fitting. They all reach very similar end goal. It’s nice to realize that there truly is an art in this profession and there is an art in the sciences.”

Kim, Marshall and Thompson are thankful for all the support that made this trip possible. Marshall adds, “Thank you to University of the Pacific for all your support and the training you’ve given me.”


Pacific’s Hearing and Balance Center Collaborates with Stockton Civic Theater

deans-letter-audiology-hearing-aidsThe lights dim, the curtain rises, the music begins to play — it is the sights and sounds that make going to the theater an unforgettable experience. Imagine if you had difficulty hearing the music or the actors and how that would impact your experience. The Pacific Hearing and Balance Center has collaborated with the Stockton Civic Theatre to make the theater experience more enjoyable for community members that use hearing aids by refurbishing the theatre’s telecoil sound system.

“We have many patients who attend plays or musicals at the Stockton Civic Theatre and they could not hear well due to the acoustic of the space,” said Gail Amornpongchai, AuD, FAAA, C-AAA, clinical director of audiology. “We called Stockton Civic Theatre and found out they had the loop, but it had been turned off for many years as the system had interfered with the sound of one of the shows. When they tried to turn it back on, they discovered the company who had installed the loop had gone out of the business. We found another company who came to install the new amplifier and made sure everything worked well.”

“A hearing loop, or telecoil loop, is a sound system that magnetically transmits the signal to hearing aids,” explains Dr. Amornpongchai. “The hearing loop brings sound directly from the sound system of the theatre to the patient’s hearing aids, similar to a Bluetooth headset. This allows the wearer to have direct access to sounds in the presence of room reverberation and background noise, which can improve their understanding of speech.”

Sound reverberates in rooms with high ceilings, which makes auditoriums challenging environments for those who use hearing aids. “A hearing loop consists of a loop of cable which is placed around a designated area, usually a room, auditorium, theatre or church. The cable generates a magnetic field throughout the looped space which can be picked up by a hearing aid that is compatible with telecoil. Patients who have hearing aids should consult with their audiologists to see if their hearing aids have telecoil and if the telecoil is activated.”

Dr. Amornpongchai believes that it is important for everyone to understand the challenges that individuals with hearing impairments face so that as a community we can help create inclusive environments. She elaborates, “The main factors that affect hearing are distance between the speaker and the listener, background noise and reverberation. Some people think that hearing aids will solve everything and that is not true. Therefore, the community needs to provide accommodations for those who have hearing impairments. This includes modifying the acoustics in restaurants or churches by installing carpet or installing sound-absorbing materials on the walls or ceiling. Also, we can educate servers to seat people close to the wall, or in less noisy areas, when requested or sponsor a telecoil loop in public places.”

Doctor of audiology student Cheryl A. Linton ’19, MS had the opportunity to assist Dr. Amornpongchai with the process of refurbishing the hearing loop at Stockton Civic Theatre. Linton shares, “Audiology is a hands-on profession; I can learn all about hearing aids and telecoils in a book or through a lecture, but handling and operating devices gives me a much more thorough and personal understanding of what my patients have to live with on a daily basis.”

Linton explains the importance of experiential learning for students training to become audiologists. “In order for us to serve our patients well, we have to become capable, confident and competent practitioners in our field,” Linton said. “Pacific’s faculty and facilities in Stockton and San Francisco are second to none. Within the first few weeks we began interacting with patients, while being precepted by experienced faculty and clinical audiologists. Our rigorous two-year classwork in science, technology, speech and language development, business practices and other topics continues as we begin our internships. The internships are in hospitals, private practice clinics and medical offices throughout the Bay Area. They provide us with a breadth of experience with patients of all ages and in all situations. The education and ‘real world’ training I’m getting through Pacific will give me the knowledge and the skills I need to have in order to serve my future patients well.”

To learn more about Pacific’s AuD program go to pacific.edu/aud

To learn more about Pacific’s audiology clinics go to upacifichearing.com

Hearing and Balance Center, Stockton Campus
757 Brookside Rd
Stockton, CA 95211

Hearing and Balance Center, San Francisco Campus
155 Fifth St
San Francisco, CA 94103



Students Provide Physical Therapy in Malawi

Dessel working with a patient.
Dessel working with a patient.

With the simple greeting, Muli bwanji, or “Greetings from Malawi,” a professor and her team of physical therapy students were met with a multitude of smiles and soccer games as they treated patients and trained community health workers. “It was a truly welcoming culture that was appreciative of any education or physical therapy skill that we were able to provide,” said Katherine Samstag ‘15, who was part of the December 2014 team.

Casey Nesbit, DPT, DSc, assistant professor and director of clinical education shared her passion for training health care workers with her students. Since 2006, Dr. Nesbit has visited Saint Gabriel’s Hospital and organized two-week trips for students. Last year’s trip included Samstag, Michael Dessel ‘15 and Meiying Lam ‘15. The students prepared for the Malawi trip with an elective course consisting of weekly seminars to discuss common health conditions as well as the local Chewa culture and the Chichewa language. In addition, they prepared materials for a community health worker training course.

The three-to-four day physical therapy course trains 20 health workers who serve villagers with chronic illnesses and disabilities. The program is essential to the local population because according to Dr. Nesbit, the hospital lacks a physical therapist and “there are only 25 physical therapists” in the entire country. The education the School provides is vital to a country where “physical therapy is a relatively novel idea,” said Dessel. As the students trained health workers, they were able to improve their Chichewa skills and eventually were able to have simple conversations and provide therapy instructions to their patients.

Students in front of St. Gabriels Hospital.
Students in front of St. Gabriels Hospital.

The collaborative educational experience is one the students benefited from and will use in their new careers. Dessel plans to begin his physical therapy career in New York City upon completion of his clinical internships. He hopes to eventually obtain his orthopedic clinical specialist certificate. Lam anticipates working in outpatient care as a certified orthopedic specialist for under-served communities after completing a residency. Samstag plans to move back to her home state of Washington. She looks forward to working as a pediatric physical therapist in Seattle.

Dr. Nesbit will keep living up to her teaching philosophy and “focus on active engagement, self-direction, reflection and guided discovery.” Every year, she plans to continue the incredible, real world education that the Malawi trip provides for the students at the School.


Student Pharmacists Kick Off American Pharmacists Month with Health Fair

Midtown Health Fair_resizedThe Pacific American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) kicked off American Pharmacists Month with a health fair at Midtown Farmers Market in Sacramento. Student pharmacists from University of the Pacific’s Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences collaborated with students from California Northstate University College of Pharmacy to host the event which served over 120 patients and provided over 90 influenza vaccinations. Overall, the health fair reached approximately 500 people in the community.

In addition to providing screenings and vaccinations, the students promoted the profession of pharmacy by initiating the new patient testimonial program which surveyed patients’ perspectives on whether or not pharmacists served as a integral players on the health care team. The survey produced many positive results. One patient stated, “The only time I ever interact (with a pharmacist) is when I pick up my meds. Now that I’ve been able to talk to some, they are very educated, lovely, helpful people.” The students hope to continue this program to further promote the profession and use the information to improve their services.Midtown Health Fair - educational_resized

Event coordinator and current Vice President of Legislative Affairs, April Nguyen ’16, encouraged other students to implement projects they are passionate about, stating “I am excited to pursue my passion for pharmacy with our first APhA-ASP health fair in collaboration with two schools of pharmacy! I am proud to be a part of this profession, where every pharmacist can make a difference in the community with our dedication to improving patient care.” Overall, it was a very successful and educational health fair, and the students are excited to channel this momentum to host future events. Pacific APhA-ASP also held the Legislative Week at Pacific which included speaker events and immunizing the mayor and legislative members.


Rho Pi Phi Brothers Make an Impact in Honduras

Imagine a completely isolated place where crime levels are at an all-time high, where clean running water and basic utilities are a luxury to a select few, where the nearest medical clinic is located a day away by foot. This is the type of territory that few of us would voluntarily set foot in, especially if we were asked to do so during summer vacation. But this kind of place was exactly where several of our own student pharmacists journeyed to this past summer. While the rest of us were lazing around and enjoying our summer vacations, six brothers (Sam Abid ’16, Amanda Chan ’16, Lawrence Chang ’16, George Do ’16, Tina Kwan ’16, and Vickie Nguyen ’16) of the Rho Pi Phi professional pharmaceutical fraternity journeyed to Santa Cruz, Honduras for an annual Global Brigades mission trip. During the week of August 6-13, these six student pharmacists, along with 36 other volunteers, traveled to a remote, rural Honduras community in order to provide basic services to the residents there.

Honduras_group_resizedThe overall purpose of Global Brigades, the organization that facilitated the trip, is to holistically improve a rural community by providing them with support in all aspects, such as medical (dental, pharmaceutical, and gynecological services), architectural, and financial. Basic utilities such as easy access to clean drinking water were also arranged. Santa Cruz, the Honduras community that the volunteers were stationed at, had only a single clinic that was located a day’s walk away. Global Brigades is the community’s only source of healthcare, but the residents only receive a visit from them every three to six months so the services that the students provided to them were greatly needed and appreciated. Abid said that it was an eye opener to see “how much we take things for granted when there are people around the world who don’t have access to basic necessities such as healthcare or water. These people were in desperate need of help and were so grateful that we were trying to help them.”

But even before heading out to Honduras, the road leading up to the trip itself was one that was paved full of obstacles. The initial preparation stage posed its own set of challenges—plenty of fundraising had to be done in order to raise the necessary funds for the trip. Many of the medical supplies that were brought to Honduras were contributions from generous donors, but anything that could not be obtained through donations had to be purchased. Since Rho Pi Phi was not able to hold enough fundraisers to raise the funds needed, a lot of the money that was used to buy the supplies had to come out of the students’ own pockets. This financial burden made it difficult for the students to get everything that they needed for the trip. “That was one of my biggest regrets for the trip,” Kwan said. “We saw how little the residents of Honduras had so I wish we were able to bring more supplies to them, especially since we ran out of a lot of the medications.”

Fast-forward to the date of Wednesday, August 6, 2014—the week of the trip had finally arrived. After spending the first day settling in and getting to know the other volunteers, the students were then immediately thrust into a busy second day of preparing medication for the rest of the week. Supplies were organized, pills were counted, and medicines were sorted into individual packages. As student pharmacists, the knowledge and skills that were gained during their time in pharmacy school greatly helped them in their situation. According to Chan, her familiarity with drug names and functions was able to help her “quickly identify where the drugs are located and what the drugs were used for.” She said that the work she did was also a learning experience in itself since “the medications were in Spanish, so some of the medications varied from the ones we saw here in the states.”Honduras_creek_resized

The next three days of the trip were medical clinic days that allowed student volunteers to directly interact with the patients. Clinic days included triage, where patients would see a board of students and translators and tell them about any symptoms or ailments they had before they were referred to either a doctor or dentist. Students also asked the patients a series of questions (height, weight, blood pressure, family medical history, etc.) in order to obtain and record general background information. Children’s charla—where volunteers taught children the importance of maintaining oral hygiene by providing free toothbrushes and toothpaste and by teaching them a song to more easily help them remember how to brush, as well as adult charla, where patients were taught basic hygiene habits, were also a part of clinic days. Numerous patients walked for miles and lined up for hours just for these medical services and Chang said that when he found out that “in just three days of clinic, we managed to serve 1,046 patients with just 42 students, it was actually quite humbling to know that a small group like us could make such a great impact on a huge community.”

Having accessible, clean water on a daily basis is one thing that none of us had ever had to worry about before. However, to the people of Honduras, this is a luxury that few could afford. Due to the natural rough terrain of Honduras and its lack of paved roads, approximately 40 percent of Hondurans live without having access to clean drinking water. This is why the fifth and last day of service was dedicated to Water Brigades. During this day, the volunteers traveled to a different rural community to help build a water filtration system for the residents there. The lack of clean water throughout the year meant that the community residents had to resort to drinking from unsafe or infested water sources—patients that came in during the clinic days had to be prescribed precautionary parasite medicine in order to combat this. Nguyen said that when she learned that people had to walk for 30 minutes just to reach water and that they had to carry the large jugs home, “it broke my heart because these people had so little and they had to work so hard for something that I sometimes took for granted.” She said that this experience made her “really appreciate the simple things in life” and realized that “as a future pharmacist, I will have the ability to help so many people, not only in my immediate community, but all over the world as well.”

Like most others, Abid said that he originally went on this trip in order to travel somewhere and to try something new, but when he saw how kind and grateful the people acted toward the volunteers for their services, it helped “reaffirm that I chose the right field of study and that the patients should always be the first in my mind.” He recounted that one of his most memorable experiences during the trip was one that occurred when the student volunteers were playing with the children in the orphanage during one of the non-clinic days. According to Abid, one of the volunteers had a camera and was taking pictures of the children to give to them as a gift. After a little boy had his picture taken, he immediately gave the picture to Abid, calling him, “mi amigo” or ‘my friend’ in Spanish. When Abid asked him if he wanted to keep it, the boy replied in Spanish, “I want you to keep it to remember me.” Abid said that “this small act of kindness really stood out to me and showed me that even from someone who doesn’t have much, they are willing to give something away to a complete stranger.”

Kwan agreed with her fellow volunteers when she described the entire trip as a “truly humbling experience.” During the course of the trip, she had the opportunity to look inside the house of one of the community’s residents. Kwan described the house as “a bare, extremely small place with dirt floor and a sheet-metal roof blackened from poor air circulation” and that the “single bedroom where six people were living together only contained two small twin beds.” Kwan felt as though it was a whole other world out there. “People there were living on nothing,” she said. “For a whole week after I came back, it was hard for me to adjust back because it felt like I was living in excess. It made me realize just how much we had compared to them and I wondered what I did to deserve such a luxurious life.”

We often hear people say that we take things for granted, but we don’t come to the actual realization until we are able to witness it firsthand and see the jarring contrast for ourselves. “Seeing the area where some people live and how little they had made me a lot more appreciative of what I had,” Do said. “It really gave me perspective of how much we have and how little they have,” Chan said. “When I am a pharmacist, I want to volunteer myself to missions like these and provide medical care to the under-served. I want to be able to use my knowledge and passion for pharmacy to help those in need.”

Rho Pi Phi participates in the Honduras Global Brigades trip annually. If you wish to partake in an eye-opening experience that will change your worldviews, consider volunteering next year. Or, if you wish, you can choose to start out small with things like donations to fund this trip. It might not seem like much now, but it’s important to remember that it’s the little things we do that help make the biggest difference.