Global Research Series: Public Health students experience service-learning in Dominican Republic

Each month, we’ll be sharing the research and global adventures of our faculty members and/or students who have conducted research in his/her field of study, in our blog series entitled: Global Research Series.

It is seasonably humid day in the Dominican Republic, and inside a barren classroom with concrete floors and rusted paint on the walls, 15 students from Fresno State’s Public Health program are surrounded by young Haitian and Dominican children. Many of these children have tattered clothing and no shoes on their feet, but you couldn’t tell by the wide smiles formed across their faces and the infectious giggles that escaped their lips as the Fresno State students sung them songs and played games with them. The same smile resonated on the faces of the Fresno State students.

Young Dominican & Haitian students in their classroom.
Young Dominican & Haitian students in their classroom.

This was all part of a 10-day service-learning course that this dedicated group of public health students embarked on this past summer. From June 20-30, the eye-opening trip took them to medical facilities and allowed them to experience firsthand the severity of Haitian immigrant camps where the most indigent individuals reside – succumbed by poverty and where malnutrition is rampant.

Dr. Miguel Perez, professor of community health in Fresno State’s Department of Public Health, led the trip and said traveling to the Dominican Republic gave students the opportunity to experience a country with similar public health issues as experienced here in the Central Valley.

Fresno State students said they made lifelong friends with students from UCE.
Fresno State students said they made lifelong friends with students from UCE.

“The purpose of this class was to explore the impact of the UN Millenium Development Goals in a middle-income country such as the Dominican Republic,” said Perez. “As part of their service learning, students in the class had an opportunity to explore and experience  the effects of poverty and lack of education on the health status of vulnerable populations, especially children.”

The first few days of the trip were spent visiting several batey communities. The term ‘batey’ refers to Haitian immigrant camps centered around sugar plantations that make up much of the seasonal workforce in the country. The harsh living and working conditions in these bateyes was a bit of a culture shock for the students, as most of the highly impoverished residents had limited access to basic U.S customs, including health care, electricity and sanitation.

Second year Master of Public Health student, Irene Rios, said the experience was staggering.

Rios and local children.=, thrilled to receive new school supplies.
Rios and local children.=, thrilled to receive new school supplies.

“I learned a lot about their culture and their means to survive through extreme poverty,” said Rios. “There are very little resources available to them. It was on this day that we learned these communities needed the very basics of food, water, shelter, and safety.”

Just a few days later, Rios and her classmates were given the opportunity to provide temporary, but much needed, relief to those residents. Through the generous financial support of Fresno State’s Friends for Civic Engagement, students were able to buy enough food and water to feed 30 families at the bateyes.

In her reflection paper, Rios described this moment with the following words:

“The evidence of malnourishment was evident in some of the women and children. A few of the kids appeared to have Kwashiorkor, a severe protein-energy malnutrition. We met a mother of seven children who weighed just over 80 pounds. The most basic of needs needed to be met, so the generous sponsorship from Friends for Civic Engagement was spent on nutritious and culturally acceptable foods. Beans, rice, noodles, maize, and oil were a few of the items purchased for the families. No feeling can compare to the smiles and gratefulness of the families we received that day.”

Fresno State & UCE students handing out free food & water to residents.
Fresno State & UCE students handing out free food & water to residents.

A unique aspect of the service-learning trip was that it connected Fresno State students with medical and public health students from Universidad Central del Este (Central University of the East, UCE). Together, they were able to work collaboratively to provide health education activities and services to local residents. The trip also coincided with UCE’s Global Health Week.

Community health senior, Justin Outland, said being aware of the impact of health on a global scale is essential, even to those in the states.

“It’s important to help others because things that are happening on the other side of the world could one day end up in our backyard,” remarked Outland. “If we help out those in need on the other side of the world, we will know how to handle the situation if it ever hits home. It’s also a great way to lend a helping hand.”

Public health professors provided lectures to the visiting Fresno State students.
Public health professors provided lectures to the visiting Fresno State students.

Rios mirrored Outland’s remarks.

“Health education is extremely important on a global scale,” said Rios. “Global status reports present that non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, and respiratory diseases are key barriers to poverty alleviation and sustainable development. The more education we can offer about these diseases and environmental impact around the world, the closer we are to closing the gap between the marginalized populations.”

Bringing awareness to this global health issue, especially in impoverished countries such as the Dominican Republic, was a focal point Perez wanted to instill in his students and according to him, it seems to have made its impact.

Public Health students from Fresno State
Public Health students from Fresno State

“Anecdotal evidence from their reflection papers suggests that our students now have a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of health and almost all have committed to using that knowledge to strive to become better professionals,” said Perez. “Most importantly, some have committed to continue to work with the communities we visited in the years to come.”

Kathy Nguyen (r) & one of the school kids whom inspired her.
Kathy Nguyen (r) & one of the school kids whom inspired her.

Kathy Nguyen, a community health major, said this trip has made a huge impact on her career and academic goals. In the future, she hopes to visit low-developing countries similar to the Dominican Republic to provide community service and health education.

“I want to be become a doctor and one day, make a difference for low-income individuals,” said Nguyen.

Dr. Miguel Perez
Dr. Miguel Perez

This latest visit marks the third time that Perez has taught at UCE, although it is the first time that students from Fresno State were involved. This time around he received a special honor, having been recognized as honorary professor at the University. The title of honorary professor is given in recognition of academic creativity and productivity based on teaching, research and spirit of service that has contributed to improving quality of life.

To learn more about this service-learning course, contact Dr. Miguel Perez at

S.A.F.E. implements inter-professional approach to balance screenings

In Fresno County alone, 75% of injuries to seniors, age 65 and older, are caused by falling. The Department of Physical Therapy at Fresno State hopes to mitigate these statistics through their Senior Awareness & Fall Education (S.A.F.E.) Central Valley Coalition program. Two times per semester, S.A.F.E. holds its quarterly balance screenings for older adults, incorporating a true inter-professional approach in order to fully treat the clients they serve.

DPT student, Collen Wooten, tests a client's balance.
DPT student, Collen Wooten, tests a client’s balance.

Formed in 2011, the mission of S.A.F.E. is to increase awareness of the physical, psychological and economic impact of falls on individuals – and to train current and future medical professionals about the importance of early screenings and intervention. Their latest balance screening, held on Sept. 16th, helped assess the strength, balance and risk for falling for 24 clients.

An important aspect of these screenings is the inter-professional collaboration among departments within the College of Health and Human Services and with California Health Sciences University (CHSU), College of Pharmacy.

“Falls are often multi-factorial and therefore require an integrated approach to identify the best intervention,” said Dr. Peggy Trueblood, founder of S.A.F.E. and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy. “Research has shown that inter-professional education (IPE) improves health outcomes in patients and enhances the students’ knowledge and skills of other health care workers. It will prepare our students for inter-professional collaborative practice.”

1The hour-long assessments, held at the Gait, Balance and Mobility Research Education and Training Center, are completed by doctoral students in the Physical Therapy program, nursing students, kinesiology students, and pharmacy students, incorporating expertise from each area. In total, 53 students from all four academic units were involved.

S.A.F.E. Coordinator Ashley Hart said this team approach is essential to reducing the risk factors of falling.

“Seldom is a fall caused by one factor,” said Hart. “Therefore the approach is to identify risk factors. In the community setting, older adults who are prone to falls due to chronic conditions require an integrated approach to care because it is impossible for one discipline to adequately identify and address all of the client care issues and risk factors of falls.”

The comprehensive screening incorporates elements from each health area, starting off with nursing students who completed a medical screening of the client, including health history, checking blood pressure, a visual check and cognitive screening.

Nursing student Elena Pena, of Porterville, has served as the student nursing coordinator for the past three years and says the experience has been tremendous to her growth as a student in the health care field.

Nursing student, Elena Pena, speaks with a client.
Nursing student, Elena Pena, speaks with a client.

“S.A.F.E. has made a huge impact on my life,” said Pena. “I think it is incredibly important to work together with other disciplines, because sometimes you are unsure of what each person does. It is much easier to trust that discipline with your patient if you know what is within their scope of practice. This enables us to really work as a team in any other health and community settings, which proves to be beneficial for our patient and everyone in the team.”

Based on the findings from the screening, nursing students continue to remain in contact with clients by providing individualized home safety visits in their residences throughout the semester.

After the health screening portion is completed, kinesiology students performed the strength testing for agility. At that time, clients also met with the physical therapy students who performed a variety of tests that screened for gait, strength, balance and leg strength. This included testing clients for functional balance, sensory impairments and motor impairments.

DPT student, Jude Xi, assists a client with a vision test.
DPT student, Jude Xi, assists a client with a vision test.

Lastly, pharmacy students completed a medication review of prescribed medications for dosage and compliance. Dr. Patty Harvard, associate dean for Student Development and Professionalization of the College of Pharmacy at CHSU, said this was not only a great experience for their students, but also aligns with their University mission.

“The S.A.F.E. screening provides the CHSU pharmacy students with a unique opportunity to apply their pharmacologic and therapeutic knowledge learned from class and interface with senior citizen patients, students from other health disciplines,” said Harvard.

Trueblood agreed, saying the addition of pharmacy faculty and student enables the program to better serve clients.

This is just one of a handful of times that the College of Health and Human Services has collaborated with CHSU since its inception in August 2014. Just recently the two universities collaborated on a workshop for 60 eighth grade students participating in the UCSF Fresno LaCMER Junior Doctors Academy. The program is for students interested in a career in medicine or allied health profession. Faculty and students from nursing, physical therapy and pharmacy gave the students and their parents a hands-on learning experience, in which they played the role of the patient, performing blood pressure screenings and tests of balance and strength. Learn more about it at the link.

Students from nursing, PT and pharmacy assess client's results.
Students from nursing, PT and pharmacy assess client’s results.

“The goal of inter-professional learning is to promote and prepare all health professional students for team delivery of care that would transform patient-centered and community oriented health care systems,” said Harvard. “CHSU and Fresno State are on the leading edge of this trend of inter-professional education and inter-professional collaborative practice being incorporated into the curriculum of health professional programs across the nation.”

Click above to view video. You can see more photos from the balance screening on the Department of Physical Therapy facebook page. 


Balance screenings are held two times per semester, with the next screening taking place on Dec. 2, 2015. For more information on S.A.F.E. or to sign up for an upcoming balance screening, contact Ashley Hart at 559.278.7539 or You can also visit

Workshop: “Who Gets Breast Cancer and Why?” happening 9/29

Photo Credit:

The College of Health and Human Services is proud to sponsor “Who Gets Breast Cancer and Why: A Workshop on Environment, Disparities and Breast Cancer” happening Tuesday, Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the West Fresno Family Resource Center.

The workshop, hosted by the California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP), will explore what we know increases risk for breast cancer and some of the gaps in our understanding. Learn about:

  • environmental exposures and disparities, such as the stress of racism and poverty, and how they can increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer,
  • more equitable ways communities can partner with researchers with the support of a funder that values genuine collaboration, and
  • funding opportunities for communities, nonprofits, support groups and scientists to get involved in preventing breast cancer.

Nearly 200,000 California women are living with breast cancer, but many of them had no known risk factors. This workshop will help new and experienced people in the world of breast cancer explore ways to get involved. It is free and open to the public. Please RSVP by Sept. 28.

Workshop schedule:

9:00-9:30     Registration and coffee
9:30-12:30   Workshop
12:30-1:00   Lunch and networking

To learn more about the CBCRP and their workshop, click here.

Listen up: Speech and hearing clinic provides free hearing evalutions

This article is reprinted from The Collegian, Fresno State’s daily student-run newspaper. Written by Myles Barker. Originally published Sept. 21, 2015.


The Speech and Hearing Clinic at Fresno State is offering free hearing evaluations to the campus community and the general public now through Nov. 20 all week long from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sabrina Nii, the director of the Speech and Hearing Clinic at Fresno State, said the free hearing evaluations not only help students and those in the community who don’t have the means, but it also helps graduate students. The students administer the free evaluations while under the supervision of licensed and nationally certified audiologists while earning credit hours towards graduation.

130321Academics006“This clinic benefits community members greatly by offering this free service to interested people as well as people who may not otherwise have access to a complete hearing evaluation,” Nii said. “The graduate students also benefit as they are able to earn the required 20 hours of clinical experience in audiology without having to leave campus.”

There are three parts to a hearing evaluation. The first is a review of a patient’s medical and hearing history, then a visual examination of the eardrums and ear canals and finally the hearing test.

During the hearing test, graduate students place patients in a sound booth to test their hearing at different pitches (frequency) and decibel (dB) levels – the loudness of sound. Patients are then asked to listen to a series of specific sounds and indicate which ones they can hear by holding one of their hands up.

There is an allotted two hours for each hearing evaluation although some may be less depending on the client. Children have to be at least three years old to get a hearing evaluation. Once completed, the results of the evaluation are recorded on an audiogram, which graduate students will review with the patient.

Hearing loss is listed as the third most common health problem in the U.S. According to the American Academy of Audiology, approximately 36 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, more than half of whom are younger than those 65 or older.

If left untreated, hearing loss can affect a number of basic life functions, such as understanding individual speech sounds, and can have a negative impact on an individual’s social, emotional and mental well-being.

130321Academics017Some things that can cause hearing loss include exposure to excessive loud noise, ear infections, trauma or ear disease, damage to the inner ear and ear drum from contact with a foreign object, such as cotton swabs, and deteriorating hearing due to the normal aging process.

Signs to look for if you think you suffer from hearing loss include having trouble following conversations, hearing people when they are not facing you or in another room and difficulty hearing people talk in noisy environments.

The three main types of hearing loss are sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss. The former is the most common and is sometimes preventable but if left untreated, can become permanent.

Blockage in the ear canal from a foreign object, earwax buildup and fluid occupying the middle ear space, which is often due to ear infections, are some possible causes of conductive hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss is essentially a blend of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.

Noise-induced hearing loss, which is caused by damage to the hair cells that are found in the inner ear, is permanent and is almost always preventable by avoiding loud noises, turning the volume down on devices such as a TV or an MP3 player and wearing hearing protection gear such as earplugs or earmuffs.

130321Academics014An audiologist – a professional who specializes in evaluating, diagnosing and treating people with hearing loss and balance disorders – can treat almost all types of hearing loss.

Nina Sandhu, a graduate student majoring in speech language pathology, said she loves giving people free hearing evaluations because she receives work experience while helping others.

“It is really good because sometimes adults will be in denial and they won’t do activities that they used to do like go out to dinner because they can’t hear with background noise or they won’t do activities like horseback riding or playing pool because they just can’t hear and they are embarrassed to keep asking ‘Oh, what did you say, what did you say?,’” Sandhu said.

Heidi Parks, a deaf education major, said she loves helping those with hearing needs and finds it fascinating to observe graduate students as they administer evaluations so she can better understand the process.

“I am learning more about the pathology of the ear and how testing and everything kind of works together to help children to either hear or to understand what problems they may have with their inner ear or outer ear,” Parks said.

130321Academics010Parks said her father, who is hard of hearing, inspired her to major in deaf education and help others with the same issue.

“All my life I kind of observed him having issues with communicating with others and so I kind of wanted to help children that have the same issues and be able to help teach them and help them to achieve their dreams and goals and be able to communicate better with other people,” Parks said. “I think it is amazing because there are so many services that are available to people that are not as fortunate as some people that have insurance.”

One of the many things Nii appreciates about the free hearing evaluations is that it is easy access for everybody.

“I personally like that the audiology clinics are here, on campus, which makes it convenient for students and community members to take advantage of this program,” Nii said.

Check out The Collegian article in full at the LINK.


Appointments must be made in advance by completing a case history form, available online. Upon approval, an appointment will be scheduled and an exact location will be provided. Parking permits are available for confirmed appointments only. Clients must be at least 3 years old. For more info on the evaluations, please call 559.278.2422 or contact

Local nursing leaders, Dr. Glen Doyle and Laurel Friesen, inducted into Nursing Hall of Fame

The Central San Joaquin Valley Nursing Hall of Fame inducted Fresno State Professor Emeritus of Gerontology, Dr. Glen Doyle, and former director of Kaiser Education Services and Fresno State alumna, Laurel Friesen, at its 12th annual awards luncheon, held at the Smittcamp Alumni House. They join a prestigious list of nursing leaders from throughout the region who have promoted the profession through a lifetime of dedicated work and achievements.

A posthumous honor was given to Dr. Glen Doyle, who led a distinguished career as a geriatric nurse practitioner and educator before retiring in 2005 at the age of 80. A few years before she died in 2009, a bench on campus was dedicated to her, in honor of her long and dedicated career at the University, which began when she was a student. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing at Fresno State, and would later teach at the University, as well as Sacramento State.

Dr. Glen Doyle, in 2005, sitting on the bench dedicated to her on campus.

Upon receiving her doctoral degree from the University of California, San Francisco, Doyle began her 18-year teaching career at Fresno State, where she was instrumental in the development of the Interdisciplinary Gerontology Program as a director and professor. Her passion for the field led to the creation of online courses for those seeking a minor in Gerontology or the Gerontological Specialist Certificate. She was also credited with the expansion of local community programs that served the elderly and aging population.

“Dr. Doyle placed the spotlight on the need for nurses to learn more about the care of the elderly and their special needs,” said Pilar De La Cruz-Reyes, director of the Central California Center for Excellence in Nursing. “It is appropriate that we honor her legacy with this recognition.”

Friesen has led a 40-year career in the nursing profession beginning at Fresno Community Hospital where she was a critical care nurse and supervisor until 1974. A year later, she began her long career with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she would receive her master’s degree and later go on to join the faculty at the University.

Laurel Friesen
Laurel Friesen

Friesen is credited for co-developing critical care classes at UCSF, as well as teaching in the grant funded Nurse Internship Program. Her passion for nursing education carried over into her role as director of Kaiser Education Services. From 2001 to 2012, Friesen managed patient care education, new hire orientation for thousands of nurses, and worked closely with nursing students to provide clinical sites around the Central Valley.

“Laurel has been a dynamic nurse leader in the Valley, as well as the state, through her profound contributions to nursing education and nursing leadership” said De La Cruz-Reyes.

Originated in 2004, the Nursing Hall of Fame is a collaborative project that aims to honor the distinctive careers of nurse leaders. It is sponsored by the School of Nursing at Fresno State, the Nursing Leadership Coalition of the Central San Joaquin Valley and the Mu Nu Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.

The names of Doyle and Friesen will be added to the Nursing Hall of Fame plaque, which is displayed proudly outside of the School of Nursing office, along with other historic nursing memorabilia.

For more information on the Nursing Hall of Fame, contact Pilar De La Cruz-Reyes at 559.228.2155 or

Physical Therapy and Intercollegiate Athletics Building opens on campus

In keeping with Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro’s mission for academics and athletics to rise together, the new Physical Therapy and Intercollegiate Athletics Building officially opened Tuesday, Sept. 15, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

4The 22,000-square-foot building, located at Barstow Avenue and Campus Drive, will house the Department of Physical Therapy, as well as offices for men’s and women’s basketball, softball and volleyball staff.

The first floor of the two-story building, adjacent to the Aquatics Center, will serve as a dedicated space for physical therapy offices and laboratories, which were previously spread throughout several buildings on campus. Dr. Peggy Trueblood, chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, said the addition of the new building will put Fresno State’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program on the map.

“We have a state-of-the-art teaching facility with all of the latest equipment and resources available to our faculty, students and staff,” Trueblood said. “This is important, as it allows us to keep up with contemporary clinical practice and gives us the ability to expand in other key areas, such as research and on-campus clinical practice.”

26As of January 2015, students must hold a doctoral degree to become a licensed physical therapist according to the Commission on Accreditation for Physical Therapy Education. Of 14 accredited physical therapy programs in the state, the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Fresno State is the only one of its kind in Central California. Since 2012, an average of 32 students have been enrolled each year into the three-year program. The inaugural class graduated this past spring.

The facility includes two teaching laboratories equipped with smart classroom features, conference rooms to present research, a locker room and a variety of faculty and administrative offices.

“Students will be in an optimal learning environment for the program with 21st century technology,” Trueblood said. “This will allow more accessibility in bringing patients into the classroom for student learning. It will also allow us to have an excellent venue to teach advanced continuing education for local clinicians.”

Having physical therapy and athletics under one roof will be an added bonus, said Huy Vo, a third-year student from Garden Grove.

30“The sharing of the building with athletics hopefully will encourage the relationship and interaction between athletics and physical therapy, as the two fields overlap in regard to sports injuries, rehabilitation and athletic performance,” Vo said.

College of Health and Human Services Dean Jody Hironaka-Juteau said the proximity of the two departments will provide an opportunity to further strengthen and grow collaboration.

Fresno State athletics will be housed on the second floor, with new offices, meeting space and team facilities.

“Our new offices are incredible,” said Rodney Terry, Fresno State’s head men’s basketball coach. “We are very appreciative of the support our program receives from the University and community. This is wonderful for our coaches and student-athletes to have a place like this to call home.”

Softball coach Trisha Ford agreed.

“We are excited to move in to such a beautiful building,” Ford said. “We take great pride in providing the best experience for our student-athletes and having elite facilities to use on a daily basis.”

View photos below and on the Department of Physical Therapy facebook page.

Frontline screening confronts aging and end-of-life discussions

If you thought you were dying, what would matter most? That’s the topic of “Frontline: Being Moral”, a documentary that will be screened at 9 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 21 at the Alice Peters Auditorium.

“Being Mortal” confronts an already growing national dialogue on the reality of death and those suffering from serious illness. The documentary will take viewers on a journey to explore the complex issues that doctors, patients and hospice professionals face when having end-of-life-discussions.

“The importance of talking to patients early about end-of-life planning so physicians, patients, and their families can focus on the quality, not the quantity of life is paramount,” said Dr. Helen Miltiades, professor of Gerontology. “This should transcend to everyone, regardless of health. Thinking about end-of-life issues puts the focus on one’s priorities and living life to the fullest.”

After the showing, a discussion panel will take place, featuring partners from Hinds Hospice and the local chapter of the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California, one of the event sponsors.

Another sponsor, The California State University Institute for Palliative Care at Fresno State, was designed to help develop a quality palliative care workforce by educating both current and future professionals in health care, nursing, social work, public health and other allied professions through courses at the undergraduate and graduate level.

“The CSU Institute is helping to raise public awareness of palliative care, so that many seriously or chronically ill patients and their families will recognize it as a means to alleviate their suffering, and enhance their quality of life,” said Miltiades.

In partnership with the CSU Institute, Fresno State has undertaken the task of exploring the need for palliative care curriculum and support at Fresno State. One way to do this is to prepare future professionals working specifically with aging populations. The Gerontology Program, housed under the Department of Social Work Education, is one such program that offers students a minor or certificate in the area.

It is one of the smallest programs on campus, with about 80 students enrolled annually. However the need to prepare more professionals in the field is increasing, with the population of Americans age 65 and older expected to double in the next 25 years.

“Fresno State is positioned to be instrumental in raising awareness within the campus community and the Central Valley region, at large, about palliative care and the need for qualified professionals to work with aging populations,” said Miltiades. “By engaging local, regional and national experts from the CSU and from the palliative care community, we’ll be able to bring the latest in best practices and educational offerings to professionals and the community.”

“Being Mortal” is open and free to students, faculty, staff and the general public.

For more information, contact Dr. Helen Miltiades at 559.278.7523.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Our College empowers students to take a whole body approach to improving the quality of life. Our faculty and students are dedicated to helping Central California live well. Click through the slideshow to the right to learn about each of our seven departments within our college: Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies, Kinesiology, Physical Therapy, Public Health, Recreation Administration, School of Nursing and Social Work Education and Gerontology.


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