Millions of people around the world are chronically infected by hepatitis. To help make a difference and fight this disease, the Hepatitis Treatment, Research, and Education Center (HepTREC), a community-based organization, has as its sole mission to reduce the impact of viral hepatitis in the Delaware Valley. A non-profit organization, HepTREC was initially founded in 2000 and in 2009 found a new home at University of the Sciences where students can more readily get involved in its work.
“What we do at HepTREC is so rewarding to me. There is an immediate impact on people’s lives. In addition, I like to engage the students so that they learn and get access to communities which are not who they would typically work with,” said Dr. Amy Jessop, assistant professor of health policy and public health and director of HepTREC at University of the Sciences.
HepTREC is one of the leading efforts in the Philadelphia community to help treat and prevent hepatitis. HepTREC has helped develop materials used around the country to educate patients with hepatitis A, B, and C. In an effort to carry on their mission, HepTREC is primarily focused on prevention programs, professional training, and programs to improve care for hepatitis patients. Thousands of social service professionals come through their training programs as well as nurses and doctors.
HepTREC began their immunization program in 2005. Their most recent immunization effort took place on October 18, 2011, at Consortium, Inc. in University City where the program distributed over 105 vaccines in just one day. Dr. Katherine Koffer, adjunct assistant professor of pharmacology practice and University of the Sciences alumna, chemistry instructor Dr. John Muccitelli, and 10 students from various colleges within the University were participants in the vaccination.
All told, HepTREC has held a total of 27 immunization events where they have delivered 1,137 hepatitis vaccinations and 298 flu shoots.
“HepTREC’s expertise and efforts around viral hepatitis is a valuable resource, both to Programs for the Development of Human Potential (PDPH) and communities at-risk for hepatitis. HepTEC makes hepatitis vaccines readily available for people who need it most, which is essential for public health in Philadelphia,” said Alex Shirreffs, adult viral hepatitis coordinator at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
The assistance which HepTREC provides is beneficial not only to the hepatitis community but for HIV patients as well. Many of the physicians who serve on the board for HepTREC are HIV specialists and see that their patients are generally healthy from HIV however suffer from hepatitis.
One of HepTREC’s most recent programs to improve care for hepatitis patients is the care coordinator project, which began in 2009. One coordinator works directly with anywhere form 150 to 190 patients. The coordinator assists patients with the ancillary components of their treatment. This includes transportation resources, follow up appointment reminders, scheduling counseling, and collecting and organizing lab work. The coordinator is essential to retaining a consistent file for patients whom see different doctors every time they return to the clinic.
HepTREC intends to continue introducing more efforts to help with the prevention and treatment of hepatitis. They are always pleased to include volunteers from the community. For more, visit http://www.heptrec.org/.