Antibiotics and Public Health: A Collaborative Elective for Students and Community

by Tessa Jaqua, AWARE Program Coordinator

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As fall ushered in a change of season, the Oregon AWARE program once again armed itself for the onslaught  of colds, flus, and other viral illnesses that contribute to the overuse of antibiotics in our community. The Oregon Alliance Working for Antibiotic Resistance Education (AWARE) is the state’s coalition whose mission is to encourage the appropriate use of antibiotics and aims to reduce the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in Oregon.

As a statewide coalition, Oregon AWARE takes advantage of the amazing resource and fresh minds from the innumerable educational and community organizations that are committed to the health and wellness of Oregonians. Two of these long time partners are conveniently located right across the river in the AWARE program’s backyard. While the Oregon State University School of Pharmacy and Oregon Health and Science University’s Physician Assistant (PA) program made themselves at home in the new collaborative sciences building on the south Portland waterfront, 15 students from both programs decided to honor the name of their new home by participating in a new collaborative elective course; Antibiotics and Public Health.

These pioneering students spent 10 weeks learning about the effects of antibiotic resistance globally and locally, the benefits of judicious antibiotic use, preventive vaccinations, and educational techniques for reducing overuse to preserve this life-saving resource. Each topic was presented with consideration and professional feedback from PAs, pharmacists, and immunization and antibiotic resistance educators.

Students were charged with completing not only lessons and projects,  but also organizing and running the Oregon AWARE program’s annual Get Smart About Antibiotics Week event, AWARE on the Square. Students organized everything from volunteering, logistics and vaccination provision, to media and community outreach for this event in Portland’s Pioneer Square. Working in interdisciplinary groups to maximize efficiency and promote participation from fellow students, these students assured that the event was a rousing success. Students educated or surveyed over 725 Oregonians and provided no cost flu shots to 46 uninsured/underinsured adults.

At the end of the term, students reflected on the course with positivity and excitement at getting to work with students from other programs and disciplines. They credited their success on final projects and AWARE on the Square to having varied and unique input from their fellow students and instructors. Many hope to carry interdisciplinary cooperation into other areas of their programs.

Oregon AWARE, the OSU School of Pharmacy, and OHSU PA program are pleased with the student’s success and the service they were able to provide to the community through events and student projects.  The programs hope to continue the elective in the fall of 2016 and plan to expand registration up to graduate nursing and medical students as well.

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