How Physician Assistant Students Have Helped Raise Funds for Health Literacy

Health Literacy Fundraiser Banner by LeMoyne College

Each president of the New York State Society of Physician Assistants (NYSSPA) has the honor of selecting a presidential charity during his or her tenure. Current NYSSPA president Mary Springston has selected ProLiteracy as the 2017 presidential charity. Springston is also a clinical associate professor and the director of the Le Moyne College Department of Physician Assistant Studies in Syracuse, New York.

Inspired By Adult Literacy

Years ago while on a local literacy coalition, Springston was inspired by Ruth Colvin, who spoke at a literacy function.   

“She is an inspirational woman who has dedicated her life to assisting people with their literacy skills. I believe that Ruth Colvin’s 50 years of dedication will inspire PAs, and shine a light on the health literacy crisis that requires solutions both through financial support and additional research.” – Mary Springston

During the early 1990s when she was just beginning her career, Springston provided health care to patients with HIV.  She had a patient who surprised her when he told her why he was missing all of his appointments and only went to the urgent care portion of the clinic: He could not read.   

“For every 10 patients we see in a clinical setting, approximately three will have limited literacy skills and, as a consequence, their health will suffer as a result.” – Mary Springston

Springston believes that individuals who have low literacy skills are likely to face challenges regarding their socioeconomic standing and health care.  She wants physician assistants to recognize the significance impact that literacy has on patients and their health care.  

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, more than 77 million adults in the United States have low health literacy. Patients need to read and understand prescription bottles, consent forms, brochures, and appointment information. Without health literacy skills, patients tend to skip important preventative procedures like physicals, flu shots, and mammograms.

By selecting ProLiteracy as this year’s presidential charity, NYSSPA has been better able to educate students of physician assistant programs nationwide about the importance of tackling health literacy issues. NYSSPA’s Presidential Charity PA Program Competition invited various PA programs to register teams of students and come up with creative and out-of-the-box fundraising ideas. The competition has raised more than $2,000 for ProLiteracy so far.

Listed below are some of the unique fundraising ideas and the teams that initiated them. 

Salsa Dancing
Student Nicolas Antico, treasurer of the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (SAAAPA) and a member of Hofstra’s Physician Assistant Class of 2018, led a salsa dancing course for students, faculty, friends, and family members. Through physical activity, this event encouraged the 30 participants to tap into their creative sides and have some fun while raising money for ProLiteracy.

“The salsa class was an awesome event that allowed us to come together outside of the classroom and try something new and exciting while raising awareness for an impactful organization.” 
-Emma Ellman-Groves, student, Hofstra Physician Assistant Class of 2018 and SAAAPA Green Chair 

Health Literacy Fundraiser with Students Posing at the dance class 

Super Bowl Box Raffle 
Faculty and students from the Hofstra Physician Assistant Program’s Class of 2018 organized a Super Bowl Box pool to raise money.  Participants purchased 100 boxes, and winners were randomly selected based on the final scores of each quarter of the Super Bowl.  This fundraiser was SAAAPA’s first fundraiser for ProLiteracy and it was a great first step in getting the class engaged and motivated. 

“I’m really happy to be involved in a program and profession that cares so much about the well-being of people.  It has been proven that lower literacy levels can be detrimental to overall health outcomes, which is something that as aspiring PAs we must confront.  These Super Bowl boxes were a really great way to raise money and awareness and I hope to see this sentiment continue not only at Hofstra but elsewhere.” - Alexandra Agins, student Hofstra’s Physician Assistant class of 2018 and SAAAPA Diversity Chair. 

Health Literacy Super Bowl Box four winners

Apparel Fundraiser 
The SAAAPA board organized a sale of sweatshirts and T-shirts to raise money.  Students from the Hofstra Physician Assistant Program’s Class of 2018 came together to create original designs for the apparel.  This was the class’ most successful fundraiser, raising more than $900 with a total of 200 items sold in support of ProLiteracy. 

 “It was really great to see how the class became so engaged in designing for our apparel order.  This was a huge fundraiser for us and everyone was so involved.  We ordered some great clothes for our class, incoming classes, and our families.  It raised a lot of money but was also amazing to see the creativity of my classmates” 
- Erin Cieslak, student, Hofstra Physician Assistant Program Class of 2018 and SAAAPA AOR Representative 

“As future healthcare professionals, the mission of [ProLiteracy] was something our class was very passionate about and we were immediately motivated to get involved. It was exciting to see my class come together and work to develop creative fundraising initiatives that highlighted each of our individual strengths outside of the classroom.”
- Kelsey Murphy, student, Hofstra Physician Assistant Program Class of 2018 and SAAAPA President



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