September 2019

On September 28, students from all over the Texas A&M Campus came together to the Leach Teaching Gardens (The Gardens at Texas A&M University), provided a holistic health fair which was free for anyone who works on the Texas A&M Campus as well as their families, friends, and neighbors. This family health fair was hosted by the REACH Project, in partnership with the Brazos County Health District, REACH Health Initiative, American Alliance Health Services, Brazos Valley Food Bank and Ronin Farm & Restaurant. Faculty, staff, and students from Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Public Health (17 Student Volunteers), Rangel School of Pharmacy (15 Student Volunteers) Class of 2022 RHI Student Organization, College of Nursing (13 Student Volunteers), College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (15 Student Volunteers), College of Architecture (1 Student Volunteer), Department of Computer Science and Engineering (1 Student Volunteer), Department of Nutrition and Food Science (1 Student Volunteer) volunteered with professional service closely related to and based on their disciplinary major interests in eight health-oriented stations for both kids and adults. This event was an overwhelming success leaded by Max Gerall, who is the Founder and CEO of the REACH Project, supported by the 63 selfless Student Volunteers from all over Texas A&M University.

The REACH Project (abbreviation or Respect, Empowerment, Aspiration, Community and Hope) founded in 2017 by an Aggie Max Gerall, and it has been a 501(c)3 charitable organization since 2018. It has been developing with envisions building a community that provides not only safe and affordable homes, but one that fosters community engagement, personal enrichment, and holistic educational achievement. The establishment of a sustainable lifestyle will be supported by this community, leading to self-actualization through homeownership in a three-phase process. To finalize the three-phase education platform, the branch of Residential Education is collaborating with Texas A&M University leaders and other community stakeholders. 

Selected to serve as an Ambassador in Training in Health & Wellness Committee (H&W) School of Public Health (SPH) for the 2019-2020 year, I would focus more on Health Promotion and Communication Work in training and empowering myself to promote and communicate healthier lifestyles, a culture of health, and contributing to establish healthier workplaces and communities. Meanwhile as a student member in both Texas A&M Public Health Student Association (TAMPHSA) and Environmental Sustainability Group (ESG), I appreciate any opportunity to enhance the quality and scope of my graduate education, as well as self-encouragement for participation in the activities and programs of the TAMHSC, SPH, other departments and colleges at Texas A&M University. School of Public Health engaged in this event by contributing in charge of two main stations, Station 4 and Station for Ergonomics Center.  Station 4 is sponsored greatly by United Way of the Brazos Valley to dispense FREE first aid kits, emergency response bags. In each volunteer shift, at least five students collaborated in line, packed first aid kits with total 175 items into a reusable carrying case. To offer better service, we explained what each item is used for and addressed points worthy of notice to each family interacting with us. Thanks to School of Pharmacy and College of Nursing so we could collect, combine and promote more professional clinical directions and instructions. Thanks to Texas Department of State Health Services for guidance compiled and edited in its brochure and flyer so we could give wider publicity to emergency-preparedness knowledge, particularly how to prepare, make a plan, build disaster supply kits, keep family safe and protect family in different types of disaster. Ms. Martha Parker and other students served at Station for Ergonomics Center offering information about consulting, research and education, so to develop people’s consciousness about Ergo Center which helps improve worker performance, safety and health by applying ergonomic designs and interventions to existing and emerging technologies, and also focuses on impacts of aging, sedentary behavior, obesity, and technology design on the health and productivity of the current and future workforce.

As a Blog Ambassador in the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies (OGAPS), I made full use of shift slots to visit, observe and interact with other seven amazing stations so to achieve a more holistic understanding of the REACH Family Health Fair. (1) I really appreciate the REACH Project set up a separate station for children with foresight and the sense of social responsibility. Station 3 was Kids Place organized by volunteers from College of Agriculture & Life Sciences with a joint cooperation and outreach-Ronin Farm & Restaurant. Dental Hygiene, Build Your Own Garden, Face Painting, and Games, all these entertainment activities were operated and provided the spirit of the purpose of promoting good health to start early. This purpose is also enhanced by Texas Health & Human Services and Texas Diabetes Council: children who learn to eat nutritious foods when they are young and who discover that exercise can be a fun part of everyday life are more likely to stick with good living habits as they grow up. Eating healthy and being active will help them keep a healthy weight, which can help prevent type 2 diabetes. (2) One could be definitely motivated within the upbeat Fair climate and enthusiastic atmosphere in the Pavilion. American Alliance Health Services strived to provide Cancer Genomic (CGX) Testing services that will assist with catching issues before they become problems through state of the art medical testing and awareness. This time hereditary risk assessment about cardiac conditions was paid the most attention to. CGX test panels covers 103 genes and 276 SNPS associating with the following cancers: colon cancer, breast & cervical cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and many more. This is a once in a lifetime test by two methods collecting samples, one is mouth rinse/washing tool and the other could be done with two swabs that are rotated around on the left inside of cheek and gum area. Results do not take that long to come back and in, within two weeks one will be able to know the potential to get cancer, and then develop preventative plan, so to make life better. (3) The Brazos County Health District served by giving free flu shot and spread educational information about influenza facts, warning signs of a flu emergency, steps to help avoid flu germs to make the community more prepared to protect family away from seasonal and pandemic flu. (4) College of Pharmacy provided blood glucose, lipids, and A1C testing, which is a more advanced index for assessing your average blood glucose at the long term level. The flyer with recommended values of blood pressure, blood glucose based on different conditions, the body mass index (BMI), and body fat percent is served as the essential supplementary. Faculty and students from School of Pharmacy provided guidelines for care of patients with diabetes through clarifying what condition is assessed, the recommended frequency, target range, and treatment choices for different tests respectively. More supplementary materials on high cholesterol, high blood pressure, risk of stoke compiled by National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were discussed face-to-face. (5) College of Nursing took charge of Station 6 and Station 7, collaborating with the outreach-Brazos Valley Food Bank. Station 6 gave attendees platform to get their blood pressure tested and heart rate checked. Station 7 paid significant attention on health eating education with the inspiration of the Gardens at Texas A&M University. Rather than boring knowledge lecturing and points highlighting, both stations prepared the exhibition, through pictures, models, multi-media and other means, a vivid demonstration of healthy eating is extensive and profound practice in our daily life. “Choose MyPlate” module initiated by Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was really impressive, and encouraged me to reflect and figure out the smarter portion of fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein foods in my daily meal. MyPlate was widely received as an improvement on the previous MyPyramid icon, which had been criticized as too abstract and confusing. The 50-percent emphasis on fruits and vegetables, as well as the simplicity and understandability of the plate image, were particularly praised. provides more practical information to individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators, and the food industry to help consumers build healthier diets with resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition information. More practical tips on nutrition education series would be shared and explained based on own experiences in my following blogs.

I believe and hope this four-hour event would have made far-reaching influence profoundly for various types of stakeholders. (1) Let me start with my personal role as a volunteer, healthy living for me is not limited to adjusting my diet and hoping for good physical results, but also about recalibrating my soul so that I want to and could change spiritually, physically, and mentally, as well we the balance among all three areas. School of Public health has allowed me to do impactful research with my advisor who thoroughly mentors me in Department of Environmental & Occupational Health, and also has offered informative resources, opportunities, and outreach to steer us students to get a diverse education and practical exposure. I really appreciate administration coordinators, student leaders, excellent seniors, amazing cohort, and all diligent members in TAMPHSA, ESG, H&W Committee, other student organizations and associations for making efforts to assess the needs & resources, implement, and promote outreach & activities related to public health. After communicating with peer from various educational background I am highly motivated to work harder and smarter to apply my knowledge into different criteria and different environment. (2) Through this successful Family Preventive Health Fair, REACH Project has inspired local community involvement. Working with Max, I witnessed respecting diversity is of great importance for implementing an educational program and practicing good stewardship. I would acknowledge that REACH Project serves as a Model of Excellence for aggies, especially when you evaluate its personalized three-phase implementation procedure which has been organized according to Bloom’s Taxonomy: a model I first touched in Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE). This model emphasizes the progression from memorization to application, to creation as the most effective process of longer-term successful learning. I look forward and give my best wishes to the implementation, evaluation, and continuation of education in all future REACH Project communities. (3) I appreciate every contribution of different colleges, particularly Health Science Center at Texas A&M University to promote interdisciplinary collaboration responding to students’ diverse evolving needs. Such cross-discipline education and practice enhance our cognitive level and improve our evaluation ability by keeping eyes on the credibility. Overall, it leads us students to develop Aggies Value, and provides the possibility to maximize academic, industrial and social partnerships.

Last but not least, gratefully thanks to the Gardens at Texas A&M University for creating and maintaining such iconic place on campus to expand Texas A&M’s research and outreach. As its mission, the Gardens shares the innovation and passion for agriculture, the environment and feeding the world. Every workday walking through Leach Teaching Garden from Parking Lots 100 to School of Public Health has been a wonderful gift for me and the Gardens is definitely a place where creativity sprouts, knowledge flourishes and Aggie roots run deep. Gig’Em!

Event Photographer: Jake Renfro

Photo 1: Station 4: Volunteers from School of Public Health

Photo 2: Station 6/7-Volunteers from College of Pharmacy

Photo 3: Station 3-Kids Place

Photo 4-Volunteers from Shift B (11:00am-2:00pm)

---Kaiyi Zhang
Kaiyi Zhang is a Doctoral Student in School of Public Health

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