Inspiring health fair lands seniors in national magazine as role models
When the December/ January issue of CosmoGIRL! catches your eye in the supermarket check-out line, flip past the article promising "685 ways to be totally irresistible" and skip to page 135. There, in the edition scheduled to hit newsstands Tuesday, Nov. 12, you'll find a full-page photo of three Johns Hopkins seniors who are among 10 CosmoGIRL! of the Year Award winners.
CosmoGIRL!, Cosmopolitan magazine's less provocative little sister, publishes the annual feature to inspire its young adult readers to change the world. Like the other "girls of the year" -- among them actress Katie Holmes and figure skater Michelle Kwan -- Johns Hopkins students Lily Daniali, Solmaz Pirzadeh and Tannaz Rasouli, all 21, were chosen as role models for "daring to dream big."
The three friends made their big dream a reality by organizing last spring's Project Prevent, the first of what is hoped to be many day-long health fairs for Baltimore's low-income families. The event was partially funded by an $800 Johns Hopkins Alumni Association grant, one of 20 given during the last academic year. Eutaw Place's Anvil Building was filled with representatives from the Baltimore City Health Department, the Maryland Children's Health Choice Program, the Arthritis Foundation and the Church Community Health Awareness and Monitoring Program, known as CHAMP. The groups offered free or low-cost tests for diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and lead poisoning.
"My job that day was to greet people and direct them to the services they needed," Rasouli told the magazine. "They'd come back to me three, four times questioning if everything was really free. It felt so rewarding to be able to assure every one of them that yes, everything really was."
It also feels rewarding to have been nominated by the university and recognized by the magazine for their team effort, Johns Hopkins' CosmoGirls say. But the bigger reward could come from the attention Project Prevent will receive.
"We are very excited that we can use this issue to promote Project Prevent on a national level," Pirzadeh said. "We're hoping to generate interest among students at other colleges so they can start Project Prevent programs as well." So far, about 25 Johns Hopkins students have signed on for the next health fair, and the founders, who will graduate in May, are hoping the next group of Project Prevent leaders will be ready to take the reins.
Before plans shift into high gear for the second Project Prevent health fair, the students are in the midst of publishing a booklet of free and low-cost community and social services provided by various local agencies. The idea is for social workers, soup kitchen workers or homeless shelter volunteers to have the booklets on hand to help clients who may need help from another agency.
"We noticed that the services are decentralized," Daniali said last week. "People don't know what's out there that can help them."
"What good is a resource if no one knows about it?" Rasouli said.
"There is such a need for all these services, and people might not have the time to go out and see what is out there," Pirzadeh said.
A conversation with the Project Prevent team tends to flow from one to the next, each adding sentences to complement the others' thoughts. The story of Project Prevent flows in the same way, highlighted by three different personalities. Pirzadeh, a neuroscience major from Silver Spring, Md., originated the idea of Project Prevent because she wanted to start a preventive medicine campaign for Baltimore's working poor. Daniali, a public health major from Edmonds, Wash., took a trip to Cuba during summer 2001. She said the trip opened her eyes to the fact that the United States is a country with far greater resources, yet Cuba provides a highly developed preventive medicine program that is free and universal. Rasouli, a cognitive science major from Midlothian, Va., nurtures a lifelong interest in medicine and has a flair for public relations. Project Prevent combines their strengths and beliefs.
"We're kind of like Charlie's Angels," Pirzadeh said, borrowing a joke from a cameraman who recently filmed the team in the Charles Village neighborhood for a video that was shown at a party in New York City last week to celebrate the special edition of the magazine.
"It has been so much fun. We feel like such celebrities," Rasouli said, laughing about the video shoot. "Some guy drove by and shouted, 'You three ladies ought to be in a magazine!' We just had to laugh."
Students interested in Project Prevent are invited to contact Daniali, Pirzadeh and Rasouli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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