PA students earn grant to fund health screenings in Latino community

PA Salud founders Victoria Larranaga and Natalia Rangel

The School of Medicine has awarded its Flourishing Diversity Equity and Inclusion Wellness Grant to Case Western Reserve University Physician Assistant (PA) students Victoria Larranaga and Natalia Rangel, founders of the healthcare advocacy group PA SALUD (Physician Assistant Student Advocates for Latino and Underrepresented Diversity).

In March, PA SALUD partnered with the Spanish American Committee in Cleveland’s Ohio City to begin free health screenings. The $1,000 grant covers payment to Spanish interpreters and social workers as well as the cost of creating printed patient materials on blood pressure, blood sugar, BMI, maternal health and more. 

“Every time I have a patient who speaks Spanish, they are so grateful when I’m able to talk to them in their language,” said Rangel. “The patient care and patient experience are completely different.“

Larranaga said PA SALUD’s efforts will benefit students and the communities they serve.

“It is increasing awareness of the unique needs of immigrants and non-English speakers,” she said. “And ultimately, it will let the Latino community know we care about them and want to help them achieve and maintain healthy lives.”

In addition to conducting health screenings, PA SALUD members meet once a month to go over medical terms in Spanish and practice introducing themselves as PA students. The group also has plans to mentor high school students interested in becoming physician assistants.

Larranaga and Rangel are grateful for the support of Assistant Professor Jereme Mellenthin, the PA program's experiential learning coordinator.

“Initially, we reached out to him with the idea of integrating these health screenings as part of the program’s existing volunteer opportunities for PA students,” said Larranaga. “He helped us bring our idea to fruition and later recommended we apply for the grant.”

The students are also thankful for society faculty advisor Professor Bianca Placucci, a mentor who attends monthly PA SALUD meetings and volunteer events.

“Her guidance has been instrumental in shaping our projects and fostering our growth,” said Rangel. “She takes time out of her busy schedule as an emergency room provider to support us.” 

The two students agree they make a great team.

“I tell Victoria all the time that we could run the world,” said Rangel with a smile. “We’re so effective together and we get things done!”

The Florida natives will earn their degrees in Aug. 2024 and are taking steps to ensure PA SALUD’s mission continues at Case Western Reserve once they’ve graduated.