Western University of Health Sciences was a presenting sponsor of the 7th annual Pomona 5K and 10K, which attracted more than 700 walkers and runners to downtown Pomona on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.
The festive event included music and performances from local high school bands and cheerleading squads. The race course included a portion of the WesternU Esplanade. The WesternU logo was prominently featured on race banners and runners’ bibs. WesternU students, faculty and staff volunteered at the event and ran and walked in the races.
WesternU Assistant Vice President for Community Benefit and Governmental Affairs Martha Rivera addressed the crowd prior to the start of the race.
“In its seventh year, this event is bigger than ever, and WesternU is excited to be a sponsor,” Rivera said, then added an invitation for everyone to visit WesternU’s booths.
Students and faculty from the College of Optometry, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP), College of Pharmacy, and College of Podiatric Medicine provided free glucose and blood pressure readings, foot and ankle screenings, vision screenings, and physical exams and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM).
First and second-year College of Optometry students checked visual acuity, eye posture and pupillary responses. They also had equipment to estimate what a person’s prescription might be. Those patients would be referred to the WesternU Eye Care Institute. The volunteer effort was organized through the Lions Club at WesternU.
Students benefit greatly by volunteering at these community events, said College of Optometry Assistant Clinical Professor Mark Wu, OD, FAAO, who served as a preceptor for this event.
“It provides them with real patient care experience, and it also hones their communication skills,” Wu said. “Up until this point, all they have practiced on is each other. Here, they can practice how to explain the tests to someone who doesn’t know what (tests) they are performing.”
The COMP volunteer effort was led by the Pomona Community Health Action Team (PCHAT). Volunteering at community events is important because students spend a lot of time in didactics learning all the facts, said COMP student and PCHAT President Ananya Narasimhan.
“Being able to apply it while also serving the community around us is important,” she said. “We get to put our names out there. We get to interact with our community and to start making a difference before we earn our degree.”
College of Pharmacy student Noha Fakhoury said she wanted to volunteer at the event to help the Pomona community. The COP volunteer effort was organized by the WesternU chapter of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy.
“It’s good to teach people some of the simple things they can do to ensure they stay healthy and knowledgeable,” Fakhoury said. “It’s simple to do.”
College of Podiatric Medicine students tested muscle strength, reflexes and diabetic sensation, attracting several participants after they completed the race.
“I wanted to learn how to do foot and ankle screenings. This is my first time getting exposed to that,” said CPM student Jeslyn Dela Vega. “I liked seeing people running. It was nice getting to learn from my instructors and my mentors. Getting acquainted with your environment is important to understand the dynamics of the community so you can give back in terms of health.”
WesternU students, faculty and staff also ran and walked in the 5K and 10K races as part of Team WesternU, led by Multimedia Manager Jeff Malet, who provided race updates to the team leading up to the event. Among the notable finishes, College of Veterinary Medicine student Johnnie Sanders placed third overall andfirst in the M 25-34 division for the 10K.
College of Pharmacy Post-Doctoral Scientist Deepak Kumar, PhD, who completed the 10K in 49:39, said the updates were very helpful, and he enjoyed being part of the team.
“The campus is small. In order to make the campus vibrant and full of activities, we need to participate in city events and in the community,” Kumar said. “It was one of the best experiences running through the campus, seeing your own people cheering for you. It was overwhelming.”
Third-year COMP student Katherine Knobloch ran the 10K as part of Team WesternU. She used to run regularly, but it’s harder to keep up your fitness during clinical rotations, Knobloch said.
“This was a good excuse to get back into it,” she said. Getting involved in the community is important, she added. “That is how you put a face to a name, by putting in the time and effort. That’s how you build a community. It’s so important to prevent burnout and do something fun and to be involved.”