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Feature Stories

A Community Partnership

by Marcos Contreras
UIW Public Relations Intern

This is exactly what is happening in a small parish community near downtown San Antonio. The Ministerio de Salud or “Health Ministry” is a partnership between the University of the Incarnate Word’s School of Nursing and Health Professions and the St. Philip of Jesus Parish. This group is focused on improving the health and well-being of the community surrounding St. Philip of Jesus, and works to assess community health needs, develop plans for solutions, and build a health-conscious environment.

The faculty of the UIW School of Nursing first began exploring the idea of developing a community-oriented nursing center in 1995-1996, with the idea of a place where students and faculty could practice nursing together while providing a service to the community. A feasibility study was conducted in the spring of 1998, and the nursing faculty formed the Nursing Center Task Force to define the focus of this center. This committee was made up of UIW nursing professors Jim Sorensen, Katherine Gallia, Irene Gilliand, Sara Kolb and the Dean of School of Nursing, Dr. Kathleen Light. They wanted to stay true to the core values of faith, education, service, truth, and innovation set forth in the university mission statement.

At a meeting of the Nursing Center Task Force in September 1998, four parishes were identified as potential partners, and after meeting with Father Michael DeGerolami of St. Philip of Jesus, the decision was made. The task force committee and the members of the parish decided that the overall goal of the program would be to improve the health and well-being of the community surrounding the St. Philip of Jesus parish, while at the same time providing a vehicle for instilling a strong sense of community responsibility among students, faculty and residents of the area.

The next step to this dream coming true was funding. Jon Gillespie of the UIW Office of Institutional Advancement helped in identifying possible sources of funding. Grants for $25,000 from the Kenedy Foundation and $10,000 from the Archbishop’s Appeal initially funded this program. Since then, the program has received funding through three agencies: The Pierre Fund, the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation and most recently the federal government, through the Division of Health Professions Basic Nursing Program.

Now that the idea was approved and funding was available, the third step was actually moving out into the community and making the idea a reality. The current Ministerio de Salud office is located in a house owned by the Archdiocese, across the street from the St. Philip of Jesus Parish rectory. Located there are the offices of the Ministerio de Salud staff, which consists of many current or former UIW nursing faculty.

The staff is made up of the project director, Sara Kolb, RN, Ph.D.; parish nurse/project coordinator, Jean Deliganis, RN, Ph.D.; and co-coordinator, Irene Gilliland, RN, MSN. An administrative secretary and two promotoras or lay community health workers complete the staff.

“This partnership is a living example of how the university can actualize the mission of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word,” Kolb says. “Having students, faculty and community working together makes for a very positive experience for everyone involved.”

This program is responsible for numerous health fairs, elderly home visits, blood pressure screenings, diabetic screenings, nutrition education, exercise classes, counseling, and school screenings at St. Philip of Jesus, St. Cecilia’s, St. Leos & Little Flower Catholic Schools. They have also talked to school-aged children about education beyond high school, substance abuse, diabetes, nutrition, and scoliosis.

Deliganis devotes herself full-time at the St. Philip of Jesus center. “I have found working as the parish nurse/project coordinator for the Health Ministry to be one of the most worthwhile nursing experiences of my many years as a registered nurse,” Deliganis says. “Helping the parishioners and community members connect with health care resources, as well as providing health education, health counseling, and other services is very satisfying.”

The majority of these projects involved nursing students and students from several other disciplines at UIW. Students and faculty from business, psychology, education, nutrition, Spanish, communication arts and campus ministry have all participated in different activities over the past four years. They have also held alternative spring breaks where students from UIW and St. Philip of Jesus clean, repair and maintain the community.

“It is incredible to know that there are so many people who do not know how to get the help they need,” said Adela Ortega, a third-semester nursing student, who started helping in the fall of 2003 as a volunteer. “This parish does a lot for the community, and it gives me a good feeling to know that I am helping someone. Some of the residents do not have access to computers, information, or the care they need,” continued Ortega. “It is a great thing what they are doing here, and I am just glad to be a part of it.”