Before enrolling in the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, New York native Renan Orellana worked as a health literacy educator in The Bronx and on Staten Island. His duties included facilitating health education workshops in both English and Spanish on topics such as nutrition, hypertension, and diabetes. “What I learned is that in order to empower a community, you have to meet them where they are. You have to understand their needs and work with them to lift them up in terms of health and wellness,” he said.

With that goal in mind, Orellana partnered with fellow first year medical student Steve Berruecos to form COMPASS, a community outreach organization that seeks to empower the communities in Las Cruces and the surrounding region through education, awareness, self-sufficiency, and unity. The group’s mission is to “build a better future for New Mexico by bringing together the diverse generations that make up our vibrant communities and fostering a culture of health, wellness, and opportunity.”

“Renan and I, we both come from humble backgrounds. My parents were immigrants and I grew up in a not so great part of Los Angeles, so I recognize the need that there is in these types of communities,” Berruecos said. “We want to use the Burrell College as a platform to empower communities by not only teaching them about their health, but also education. We want to encourage people to finish high school and go to college. That’s why we call it COMPASS; because it encompasses a broad scope of different topics. We have subcommittees that are dedicated to different topics and each subcommittee goes out and reaches out to the people directly where they live.”

COMPASS recently partnered with BCOM’s chapter of the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) to host their first health fair. The event, held on Saturday, May 12 at the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market, included health information booths on a variety of topics and offered free health screenings. The screenings included blood pressure measurements and blood glucose readings. La Clinica de Familia, the Department of Health, and St. Luke’s Health Care Center participated, along with 13 student organizations from BCOM. The event reached an estimated 400 community members, with 130 taking advantage of the health screenings.

The health fair was made possible by a grant that was awarded to COMPASS and BCOM SOMA by the National SOMA organization, the nation’s largest network of osteopathic medical students. The association aims to educate and prepare osteopathic leaders and to advance the interests and viewpoints of osteopathic medical students. BCOM currently has 140 active SOMA members, and there are currently 19 active members of COMPASS.

Orellana said this event is just the beginning of COMPASS’s outreach efforts: “We had a good turnout at the fair and COMPASS is growing significantly and reaching out to Chaparral, Anthony, and rural areas surrounding Las Cruces. We want to center around BCOM, but also expand and look at how we can serve areas that are a little more marginalized and underserved.”