More Than A Screening – A Lesson in Compassion from College of Pharmacy Student Natalie Peng

It’s hard to say whether compassion is an inherent or learned trait. Some would argue it is a necessity – something without which humanity would not survive. Community impact, carried out by compassionate people through compassionate work, is at the heart of Roseman University’s mission and this time of year prompts reflections on the many ways in which the Roseman community has made a positive difference in the communities we serve. And as we close out the calendar year and head joyfully into Winter Break, we leave you with the heart-warming and inspirational story of our third-year Doctor of Pharmacy student, Natalie Peng.

At a recent Roseman Healthcare Day held at Lutheran Social Services of Nevada, Nursing and Pharmacy students collaborated to provide healthcare screenings and Medicare plan checks for open enrollment. Thirty student volunteers, two alumni preceptors, two faculty members and two Nevada State Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) volunteers teamed up to provide services to underserved patient populations including low-income and homeless individuals and veterans.

During the event, a Medicare screening was conducted for an 85-year old female. Later, about twenty minutes before the health fair ended, Peng invited the woman into the health fair.  When Peng approached her, the woman asked to borrow a phone to contact her husband, but she couldn’t recall the phone number. “At that point, I was pretty sure she had some issues with cognition and memory,” explains Peng. “I contacted my supervisor for the event and we agreed it would be best to bring the woman back inside to find out more.”

The woman appeared to be in distress. Her red sweatshirt was worn and dirty. Her hair was unwashed and she was clearly disoriented. She did not have identification and while she was carrying a phone book in her purse, the entry for her husband went to voicemail. Peng patiently and diligently questioned the woman to obtain any information that might be helpful in confirming her identity. “I felt a responsibility to do all I could to help this woman,” said Peng. Did she know her address? Yes, she did. This helped her remember that her husband had recently been hospitalized. But, she didn’t know which hospital or how long he had been there.

When her attempts to uncover more information were unsuccessful and left with little other recourse, SHIP Volunteer Wayne Young contacted the Las Vegas Metro Police Department (non-emergency helpline) 311 to request assistance with transporting the woman to her home. Peng, Young and SHIP volunteer Kathy Lopan resolved to wait with the woman until help arrived. Two hours later, the police had not yet arrived, so Peng took the initiative to order pizza for the group while they waited. The woman remained in good spirits throughout the evening. “She had a great sense of humor and was just a joy to be around,” recalled Peng. Eventually, the group received a return call from the woman’s husband.

He explained that he had been admitted fifteen days ago to UMC Hospital for a procedure to treat a diagnosis of facial cancer. He had at least eight additional days of recovery ahead of him and he had received word from neighbors that there had been a fire at his home while he was away.  He had been unable to reach his wife and was concerned for her safety. When he learned that his wife was safe with volunteers at the Health Fair, the man expressed his heartfelt gratitude and requested his wife be brought the hospital to be evaluated for medical care. Police and paramedics arrived on the scene around the same time, neither of which were surprised to hear that the woman had been displaced from a fire (both agencies had responded to the call at her home earlier in the week). Having been reunited with his wife the man was overcome with gratitude for the efforts of all involved.

As for Natalie Peng, she is grateful to have been in the position to help. “I was grateful to be there when I was,” she said. “I had spent time with her earlier in the day, so I definitely felt a connection.” The Southern California transplant is in her final year at Roseman University and plans to stick around after graduation. She is looking forward to applying for a clinical residency and will continue to volunteer with Roseman Medicare Call Lab and the Las Vegas Rescue Mission.

C. Leiana Oswald, PharmD, BCGP, Director of Experiential Education (IPPE) and Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice for Roseman University recalled the efforts of her student with pride. “I am extremely impressed with the compassion and caring that our student Natalie Peng exemplified in dealing with this patient,” she said. “In addition to identifying a patient in need, Natalie potentially saved this woman’s life. She had been homeless for several days and displaced from her husband. By bringing her back into our health fair (instead of brushing her off on the street),” Oswald continued, “she was able to work with our valued partners, Wayne and Kathy, to carry out our mission of “impacting the health, education, and wellness of the communities [we] serve.”

Roseman is proud to recognize Natalie Peng for her compassion, insight and diligence. Thank you Natalie for the positive impact you have made in your community. Keep up the good work!

Joslyn Hatfield
Marketing Communications Specialist
Roseman University of Health Sciences