URI pharmacy students improve patient awareness of HPV, cervical cancer

Results of 2-year study at Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic presented at health conference in Boston

Jeff Chau didn’t know much about HPV when he started volunteering at a free health clinic in Providence three years ago. Now the University of Rhode Island pharmacy student is so knowledgeable about the cancer-causing virus he helped research and write a report on how to prevent it.

Chau ’15, of Fall River, Mass., and two other URI pharmacy students –Macayla Landi ’15, of Smithfield, and Melissa Reilly ’15, of Mahopac, N.Y. – recently completed a two-year study at the Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic revealing that health education plays a key role in patients’ willingness to get vaccinated against HPV. The clinic, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Providence, provides free health care to people without insurance.

“I chose pharmacy to be able to help people,’’ says Chau. “To be able to expand awareness for a particular disease and encourage people to get vaccinated was very fulfilling.’’

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Most HPV infections clear up in one to two years, but 10 percent of cases can lead to cancer of the cervix or other reproductive organs in both women and men.

The two HPV vaccines for women – Cervarix and Gardasil – have been effective at preventing the illness, resulting in a significant decrease in the number of cases. Only Gardasil has been licensed for use in males. But awareness of HPV and its link to cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers is still lacking among low-income people with no insurance.

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KINGSTON, R.I. – Nov. 26, 2013
Taken from the University of Rhode Island Press
Media Contact: Elizabeth Rau, 401-874-2116

Photo above, left to right: Melissa Reilly, Jeff Chau and Macayla Landi, all pharmacy students at the University of Rhode Island. The students conducted a survey and wrote a paper about the importance of educating people about getting vaccinated against HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cancer in both women and men. Photo courtesy of Dr. Annie De Groot.

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