In October, SSU announced it had received a donation of the 39-foot vehicle as a part of its Poised For Tomorrow capital campaign. The donation came from Dr. Richard Conard of University Estates community in Athens, and Steve Farber of Farber Specialty Vehicles, in Columbus.
“The senior administration at Shawnee State related a huge need to expand its outreach program and improve the health care of a lot of the people who were basically very under-served, and they felt they could do that with a mobile unit,” Conard said. “As a physician, I could very much relate to what they’re saying, and I know in the whole Appalachia Valley there is a tremendous amount of people who are not getting the care they need and are almost considered medically indigent. I just felt if I could be helpful to that effort that would be a good way for me to expend efforts and resources.”
On Friday the university had a public luncheon celebrating the grand opening of its Mobile Health Unit at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts. Following the luncheon, between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m., the Mobile Health Unit was available for free public health screenings and a tour of its facilities. This is the first Mobile Health Unit in southern Ohio.
“I’m just thrilled with the start of this program. We’d taken a lot of time to update the bus to be certain the systems were working well, and then the college outfitted it like it wanted it,” Conard said.
During the luncheon, Conard made three predictions to come from this new Mobile Health Unit.
• Improved health care for the under-served members of our community,
• More prevention of illnesses; and,
• The Mobile Health Unit will enhance the entire nursing program at SSU and benefit them in their future careers.
Fanester Dickerson is an employee of Southern Ohio Medical Center, and also has lived with heart problems. Attending the luncheon, she said she was very excited to see such a resource for prevention come to our area.
“Prevention is so important in our community and especially, I have found in the past, to help those in the black community as well as other areas of Portsmouth,” she said. “Anything that will make people aware and get out information is so important.”
Ashley Salyers, workforce development clinical educator from SOMC, and an adjunct nursing instructor at SSU, said the unit would be a valuable tool for students as well as the community. Nursing students at SSU will now be able to earn credit hours working hands-on in the community.
“It’s amazing in this community, simply because heart health in this area, because of our culture and the way we eat and our inactive lifestyles, it’s pretty much the number one thing in our area that gives people trouble with their health,” Salyers said. “It’s very exciting for Shawnee, and especially the nursing program, to have something like this.”
Shawnee President Rita Rice Morris said the new Mobile Health Unit would be a wonderful asset for teaching new nurses.
“It will help us train students to work with the community. We’ll go out with the vehicle and setup, and students can do blood pressure and that sort of thing, and help people become aware of resources that are available in other places,” Morris said. “The other thing is it gives our students a different laboratory to work in, and it’s great teaching tool. I think it will make a difference. We have a lot of good resources in our community, and this is another one.”
A schedule hasn’t yet been settled for the Mobile Health Unit, but it will be at Central Baptist Church, on Highland Avenue in Portsmouth, on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. Several other places have requested the services and will be announced at a later date. Once the unit is up and running, the goal is to take it all throughout southern Ohio and northeastern Kentucky.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.