Utah Society Receives Grant for Community Service Project

 Updated: April 20, 2017

The Utah Society for Respiratory Care (USRC) has been going out into the community to educate school children about lung health and the respiratory care profession for many years now.

Now those efforts have been rewarded with a $5,000 grant from Select Health. “The USRC will be honored at a large company banquet in May,” says USRC President Kim Bennion, MHS, BSRT, RRT, CHC, corporate respiratory care services QA manager at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City.

photoPig lungs provide a fascinating demonstration as part of the program.

Through the Breathe-zy Community Partnership Program, therapists teach the kids how the lungs work using pig lungs for dissection, show them what it means to have asthma through a variety of fun activities, and educate them on the “criminals” to lung health like smoking and air pollution. Two counties in Utah were recently identified as the highest users of youth e-cigarettes. The partnership with Intermountain Healthcare, led by the USRC, was the impetus for us “doing something” to reverse the trend.

Bennion notes that there have been several beneficial outcomes of the USRC/Intermountain Healthcare partnership, including:

  • Early awareness of the importance of general lung health and avoidance of lung disease causing exposures such as tobacco, electronic cigarettes, pollution and other particulates
  • Professional community education and leadership mentoring of Respiratory Therapy and University of Utah pre-med students
  • Opportunities for professional networking and employee recruitment
  • Awareness of respiratory therapy as a profession
  • Respiratory therapy program credits to encourage community volunteering and stewardship
  • Unification of respiratory therapists across the state
  • Pre-medical student exposure to respiratory therapists as vital healthcare team members

photoMelissa Eaton works with kids in the USRC’s Breathe-zy program.

Even bigger things are on the horizon for this community service venture. According to Bennion, Intermountain Health has encouraged the USRC to further the project to include data outcomes. “We are planning to do so,” she says.

Melissa Eaton, WSU Senior RT Student and USRC Student Committee Co-chair, has been especially active with the program. She has coordinated the school scheduled programs with the USRC volunteers, tracked key contacts and assured adequate numbers of volunteer to student ratios are maintained. Bennion states, “She’s been the backbone of this project”.

The Breathe-zy Community Partnership Program is not only helping kids learn about lung health, but helping the community learn about respiratory care. “You can’t believe how valuable this has been for getting the profession out there,” Bennion says.