Helping Hands

Beverly Fray takes action to improve health in Little Haiti

Father Reginald Jean Mary and Beverly Fray are collaborating on a community-wide health initiative in Little Haiti.

For Beverly Fray, B.S.N. '02, the question was never if she would become involved in community health, but rather when-and where. "I feel that this is my calling," says Fray, who graduates with her M.S.N. in community health nursing this spring. "It became very clear to me that with the number of uninsured in this country and the rising cost of health care, population-based health initiatives are essential for our most vulnerable communities." Fray has turned her concerns into action, with the development of a new initiative in Little Haiti, one of Miami's most underserved areas.

As part of her coursework, Fray, who is currently a nurse at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Pain Management Clinic, was required to conduct a health assessment of a local community and then plan, implement, and evaluate a program that addresses a key health concern in that area.

Initially, Fray was given data suggesting that women in Little Haiti had a high incidence of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Armed with this hypothesis, she went into the community to do interviews, conduct research, and learn firsthand about Haitian history and culture.

There's no effective prevention effort without community participation.

Her assessment of the community encompassed a wide array of organizations and individuals-from the county health department's Department of Epidemiology and the Miller School's Center for Haitian Studies to local physicians, women's health experts, and ER personnel.

"I began to see a pattern," she recalls. "Cancer was not the real problem in Little Haiti, it was cardiovascular disease." Further research and interviews with other clinicians confirmed her findings.

By developing relationships and building trust, Fray earned the community's support and has applied for a grant to start a free health promotion center at the Notre Dame D'Haiti Catholic Church in Little Haiti. The center will provide health screenings, referrals, and education on how to prevent and control symptoms that could lead to cardiovascular disease.

Says Fray, "Father Reginald, the administrator and chief priest at the church, is completely supportive of the project and believes it will make a tremendous difference in the community, because many of his parishioners don't have health insurance."

So far space at the church has been assigned for the center, and accommodations, like wheel chair accessible bathrooms, have been made. Grant or no grant, says Fray, she's ready to start. "I have friends who are nurses, nurse practitioners, and doctors who are eager to help once things are in place," she adds.

Fray hopes that the center's outreach efforts will help residents to become better educated on health issues and better able to access local resources.

"We have a responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves, and community health is the most effective way to address many of these issues," Fray says about the practice environment she has chosen. "There's no effective prevention effort without community participation-and prevention, not cure, should ideally be the emphasis of health care."