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Organization offers students clinical training to raise awareness of diabetes and hypertension

Chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension have long afflicted people in the United States. The North American Disease Intervention (NADI) is an organization that aims to raise awareness about diagnostic and preventative measures for diabetes and hypertension.

Aayush Visaria, a first-year medical student at New Jersey Medical School, started the organization in 2014 during his senior year as an undergraduate at Rutgers University.

“What I wanted to do was develop an organization where we would have screening events and test everyone for hypertension and diabetes,” he said.

The aim is to be able to reduce the number of undiagnosed cases and to try to prevent diabetes and hypertension in order to decrease the burden in the long term, Visaria said.

One of their main missions is trying to be innovative in their ways of targeting diabetes and hypertension, so the organization has different projects that they are currently working on, he said.

The organization holds medical tables, which are screening events in community venues such as libraries, temples and farmer’s markets. Undergraduate students measure blood pressure and blood sugar as well taking the body mass index of participants. At certain events they also perform EKG (electrocardiogram) tests, Visaria said. Students use information from these tests to see if a patient is possibly at risk for diabetes or hypertension. 

Visaria said as students they can inform participants whether they are at risk and take that information to follow up with their doctors. 

“There are a lot of undiagnosed cases in New Jersey and globally. The more screening events we have, the more people will be aware of their condition,” He said. “Even if they don’t have diabetes or hypertension, if they’re aware of their blood sugar and blood pressure, then they’re going to be more willing to be preventative in their lifestyle.”

Alisha Sharma, a School of Arts and Science senior and co-president of Rutgers NADI, said the club has an upcoming counseling program for people interested in tracking their health.

Students interact with the general public in a way that they can keep up to date with them on a weekly basis, she said. 

“Rather than just seeing them once, we want to keep up with them so we can find out what they’re doing to improve their diet,” she said. “Participants can enter any questions they may have online, and we also work on possibly implementing new exercises in their lifestyle.”

The organization also is involved in public health research, Visaria said. They use publicly available datasets such as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as data collected on their own. During their screening events, members give the participants questionnaires to fill out.

In order to volunteer at the medical tables, all NADI members are required to attend one training session. Training sessions are held once every semester, he said.

Members are taught how to measure different vital signs like pulse rate, respiratory rate, BMI and grip strength as well as measuring blood pressure, he said. Members are trained by current medical students.

“They’re (medical students) teaching it the same way they learned and from the same books that they’ve learned,” Visaria said. “We give everyone packets from Bates, which is the book used by all medical schools and all health professional schools.”

After training, members are required to take a practical and theoretical assessment before participating in any medical tabling events.

Mitesh Jariwala, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and general member of NADI, joined the organization because he felt the clinical experience would be good exposure for his future in nursing.

“(NADI) really got me out of my bubble because you get to interact with a lot of people during the screening events. I felt I was really engaging with them,” he said.

“It (has) helped me not only for experience, but also health wise. Now I’m more aware about how to stay healthy and also enjoy spreading that information,” he said.

Jariwala along with another NADI member, Stephanie Walsh, have started a YouTube channel as a part of the organization. The first video created was about how supplements and vitamins are beneficial and also a little harmful to your body, Jariwala said.

In terms of moving forward, Visaria hopes that the organization will spread on to other universities across the nation. 

“Currently we do most of our operation in N.J. through Rutgers. If we can get more students involved, then we could expand to a national level,” he said.

Visaria said that currently hypertension and diabetes diagnosis is not always completely accurate. NADI is trying to be innovative and look at blood pressure variability and see if there are better ways to diagnose hypertension and diabetes. 

Visaria said he wants to expand NADI one day to focus on chronic diseases beyond diabetes and hypertension to ones such as vitamin D deficiency, anemia and polycystic ovary syndrome.

“We want to give college students a means to gain clinical experience, as well as reaching out to the general public to educate them about preventable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and stroke,” Sharma said. “Often times people are faced with diseases that could very well be prevented.”

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