Annual 9Health Fair in Craig helps residents, medical students | CraigDailyPress.com

Annual 9Health Fair in Craig helps residents, medical students

Ben McCanna

Eric Stevens, a first-year medical student at Rocky Vista University, draws a blood sample Saturday during the 9Health Fair in Craig. Twenty-two RVU students were on hand for the event to help provide low-cost health screenings for roughly 400 area residents.

Kelly Dewey, a third-year medical student at Rocky Vista University, stood next to first-year student Melissa Fujan on Saturday and helped her find a vein on a patient.

The patient — a member of the Cedar Mountain Lions Club — waited for his blood to be drawn.

Nearby, Dr. Thomas Told, the assistant dean for clinical education at RVU and formerly a long-time Craig physician and resident, surveyed the scene.

"They're pretty good," Told said of his students. "Some people have to get stuck twice. It's a learning experience for everybody.

"But, at least it speeds up the process a little bit."

The students' real world education came during the 31st Annual 9Health Fair in Craig.

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On Saturday, about 400 area residents received low-cost health screenings at the fair, which took place at Sunset Elementary School.

About 40 volunteers chipped in for the effort. Some were from the Craig Lions Club, Cedar Mountain Lions Club, Rotary Club of Craig, The Memorial Hospital and community members.

Twenty-two volunteers came from RVU in Parker, a suburb of Denver.

Told said RVU's presence at the annual fair is the result of a moment's inspiration.

"I came up to help with the health fair one time and we didn't have enough stations," Told recalled. "So, the line stretched out for hours, and people were fainting and passing out and we'd have to stick IVs in them.

"I said, 'There has to be a better way.'"

For the past three years, Told has been bringing RVU medical students to the event. The students check people's blood pressure, draw blood, perform skin exams and more.

Their presence, Told said, serves two purposes.

First, the health fair provides an affordable health screening. Second, RVU's presence at the fair brings the students a step closer toward Told's goal of training physicians to practice medicine off the beaten path.

"The biggest challenge to rural health care is access — whether it be from lack of physicians or lack of health insurance," he said. "I'm trying to inspire these kids to go out into rural communities."

RVU is a private medical college that maintains training sites in Utah, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas and Idaho, Told said.

"We're founded on the grounds of trying to produce more rural primary care physicians for Colorado and the Mountain West," he said. "What we want to do is build confidence in young physicians that they don't need to have all the technology of a big, urban medical center to deliver high-quality health care."

This year's numbers suggest the 9Health Fair provides a solid training opportunity.

Site coordinator Kristi Shepherd said the fairs are well attended.

"The 9Health Fair sees about 95,000 people in the month of April throughout the state of Colorado. I'm just a little fraction of that," she said of the estimated 400 people who attended Saturday.

Shepherd, who has been organizing the long-running event for the past seven years, said the event's affordability explains its popularity.

"It's a great way to get your health checked," she said. "It's inexpensive."

Despite the high numbers, Shepherd said participants don't represent the area's demographics. Most attendees are middle-aged or older.

"I would like to see more young people come out and do this so they can be proactive with their health," she said. "People think it's for people who are older and are on a restricted income, but it's not.

"We all have to take charge of our health care when we can and when it's inexpensive."

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