Health

Public Health Students Experience Engaged Learning at Capitol Reef Station Park

Wayne County, Utah, includes Capitol Reef National Park, petroglyphs, and Boulder Mountain. It is also the location of Utah Valley University’s Capitol Reef Station — a place for education and star gazing. But, for a team of UVU Public Health students, the field station was a home base for community service.

UVU students, public health faculty, and health and wellness staff visited Wayne County in August to conduct free health examinations in rural communities, learn about sustainability and environmental health issues, and, in their spare time, visit the pristine sights of Capitol Reef National Park.

“[Capitol Reef Field Station] is the highlight of my year,” Dr. James Bemel of the UVU Department of Public Health said. “It’s such an interesting place. The station itself is totally off the grid, so students can’t use their cell phones while they’re down there.”

At the station, students, faculty, and staff lived and worked together.

“My very favorite part was just going and like having casual interactions with faculty and staff,” nursing student Hailey Haslam said. “It was amazing to just hang out with and connect with everyone on a different level than the standard student-teacher relationship.”

Students ran health assessment booths in Wayne County Community Health Center in Bicknell, Utah; Royal’s Market in Loa, Utah; and the Wayne County Farmer’s Market in Torrey, Utah. Students provided assessments of glucose, blood pressure, and body composition levels, in addition to educating individuals on a variety of public health topics.

Health and Wellness Center Director Trevor Carter assisted students in providing this service for Wayne County residents.

“I’m very much for engaged learning,” Carter said. “I love that I get to see students talk to somebody and educate them about public health. One of the students was talking to a young boy about smoking and tobacco use, and he told us how his dad smokes and has tried to quit. This student gave him simple information and didn’t say his dad was a bad person. They just said, ‘Hey, here’s some information and some UVU swag items that can help him to stop quitting.’ And he got so excited and ran down and gave it to his dad.”

Wayne County was selected as a place for service because of the proximity to UVU’s facility and the tremendous need in the area.

“A lot of the rural population is underserved when it comes to health care,” Bemel said. “And there’s a twofold benefit to this: The students get to put into practice the stuff they’ve been learning in the classroom, which is great for them, they get real-world experience, [and] we’re providing this service that the rural population down there doesn’t necessarily get. It’s a great feeling.”

“You can learn about it all you want in a health book or a textbook or from an instructor, but unless you go out and actually practice it, it just doesn’t have the same impact,” Public Health Advisor Kristie Dockstader said. “These engaged learning opportunities truly are invaluable, and the Capitol Reef Station is an amazing place to do that. We all learned so much, including recycling, water management, and the importance of being a good steward of the environment.”

While hiking behind the field station, nontraditional student and healthcare administration major Sarah Furst identified her great-grandparents’ and grandmother’s names from 1916 carved on the petroglyph panel.

“It was kind of surreal,” Furst said. “I was kind of overwhelmed with the reality that like my grandma had been there. [My grandmother] was nine years old — the same age as my daughter now — when that happened, and just thinking about the generations of women in my family and what we’ve all gone through really got me emotional.”

Learn more about the Capitol Reef Station and UVU’s engaged learning experiences by visiting the Capitol Reef Station website

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