Mary Lambert’s eyes lit up when she was asked to speak about the significance of the Minority Health Fair taking place at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“I am so proud of the UTC campus and the School of Nursing,” said Lambert, director of the city of Chattanooga’s Office of Community Health and a member of the School of Nursing’s second graduating class in 1978. “It is so important to have this event in the center of the community and to provide all these services to many who probably don’t have access to this.
“That’s what we’re working on in the city’s Office of Community Health: To make sure that our community has all of the healthcare services they need so that we’re physically and emotionally a healthier city, and to see it at UTC is amazing.”
On Saturday, Aug. 6, the 21st annual Hamilton County Minority Health Fair occurred at the University Center. Known as the area’s largest health fair event, the Minority Health Fair—previously held at Eastgate Mall—was created to address an essential need: Providing free health services for the benefit of underserved communities in Chattanooga.
A host of vendors could be found inside and outside the University Center—including mobile mammography and lung screening stations parked along Terrell Owens Way outside the building entrance—providing free health screenings and information.
Multiple presentations were scheduled to take place in the University Center Tennessee Room on topics including breast cancer awareness, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, and cardiovascular complications of COVID-19.
Organizers expected up to 1,000 attendees for this year’s event. According to its website, the Minority Health Fair has served more than 10,000 individuals during its existence.
“We’ll see how many folks we can get in here, and it’s looking pretty full right now,” Lambert said. “I look around, and I am so proud of my University. I have three other degrees, but my UTC degree began it all.
“I look forward to bigger and better things with UTC and our health program for the city.”
Amber Roaché, the nurse practitioner program coordinator for the UTC School of Nursing, said the Minority Health Fair is an excellent opportunity for her students to interact with members of the community.
“We offer blood pressure, blood sugar, height and weight, body mass index, cholesterol screenings and nutrition education,” she said, “and a lot of folks come here thinking, ‘This is my primary care visit for the year.’ We’re not meant to replace that by any stretch, so when those people tell us those things, we can also say, ‘Here are resources in our community where you can get free or low-cost healthcare. Here are resources where you can get access to food for low or free cost.’
“It’s really important for our students to be able to see this and interact with our community—and for our students to be able to see the other agencies that are available for them as resources when they become nurse practitioners.”
Nikki Goddard, on schedule to graduate from the family nurse practitioner program in May 2023, was among the UTC nurse practitioner personnel set up in a series of University Center Chattanooga Room stations.
“I think it’s important to get out in the community and see patients that we will eventually be seeing in our own practice and improve health in our community in any way that we can,” said Goddard, a native of Clarksville, Tennessee.
“We try to teach them that a proactive approach to their health is really important. These screenings can help their health further down the line.”
Dawn Ford, an assistant professor in the Master of Public Health program in the UTC Health and Human Performance department and the University’s chief epidemiologist, spoke about the importance of bringing the event to UTC.
“UTC is a community-engaged campus,” Ford said, “and this really shows our dedication to the community to improve their health. There are neighborhoods very close to UTC that are underserved. They don’t get the healthcare that they need. They don’t have access to providers, so this is critically important.”
Ford said the MPH program received a grant from the Lambert-led Office of Community Health to help support COVID-19 and monkeypox education and outreach efforts.
Ford was joined at the health fair by MPH graduate students Taylor Teasley and Jillian Saraney. The two have graduate assistantships with the city this academic year.
“With the MPH program, we really want to—more than anything—spread awareness of health issues like monkeypox. There’s so much misinformation already out there,” said Teasley, a native of Knoxville. “We want to make sure that we are able to let people know exactly what’s happening and get them the right information.”
This was the first health fair for Teasley and Saraney.
“An event like this gives me the opportunity to interact with the community, which is important for someone like me who wants to get involved in the community and make an impact,” said Saraney, who grew up in Murphy, North Carolina. “It’s great to be on the ground doing this work and being face-to-face providing health information.
“This event is really incredible for me. I’m glad we have these opportunities for students to get experience and the community to benefit.”