SMU eNews

SMU Professors Offer Free Healthcare Courses to the Community

Samuel Merritt University (SMU), based in Oakland’s Pill Hill area, is offering a Community Learning Forum (CLF) starting in September that will allow community members, students, and healthcare professionals to attend a five-week lecture series on current health issues from expert faculty – FOR FREE!

The University’s CLF is designed to provide members of the community the opportunity to see and hear what goes on in classrooms and research labs at SMU with lectures from the same professors who are on the front lines every day, teaching future healthcare providers. 

"This forum addresses the accelerating public interest in the scientific knowledge behind the health headlines and the role of the consumer in healthcare decision making," said Richard Rocco, Ph.D., associate professor who teaches pharmacology courses in the Doctor of Podiatric Medicine program. "I think the community, students, and healthcare professionals will enjoy seeing and hearing from leading clinicians, researchers, and educators who are up on the latest research and getting their questions answered about maintaining good health." 

Christina Lewis, Ph.D., assistant professor, who teaches anatomy, physiology, and pathology courses for the Nurse Anesthesia, Occupational Therapy, and Doctor of Podiatric Medicine programs explains, "the main objective of the CLF courses is to enhance public awareness of primary health matters and to provide a forum through which its community participants can dialogue with expertise in the field to seek out a greater understanding on the health matter."

The learning series is something many health sciences schools across the country are realizing as a group learning style of healthcare education.  The free classes at SMU will be held for five weeks on Tuesday evenings held at the Health Education Center located on the University’s Oakland campus starting September 13.  The first two lecture series will be on Prescription Drugs, Herbal Medicines, & Dietary Supplements, led by Dr. Rocco while Dr. Lewis will lead a course that outlines the fundamentals underlying Asthma, Allergies, & the Airways.

The courses will be covered in a way that does not require any scientific or medical background, but only an active interest in acquiring a better understanding of the topics.  For his course, Dr. Rocco explains that "the only requirement is an interest in how drugs, herbal medicines and dietary supplements are used in clinical medicine and how they are evaluated for safety and efficacy."  He goes on to say, "the objective of this course is to introduce an individual to the basis of prescription drug, herbal medicine and dietary supplement regulation and evaluation.  We will also discuss the role of the FDA in the regulation and monitoring of these substances."

According to Dr. Lewis, "at the completion of the asthma course, students will be able to understand the fundamental concepts of asthma as a disease, have a better understanding of the role(s) of various therapeutic interventions in the treatment of asthma, and acquire an enhanced knowledge of the current legislative and research efforts underway to improve our understanding and management of asthma."

Studies show that the Oakland community is greatly impacted by allergic airway disease, with asthma being the primary reason for hospitalization among children in the community.  "It is our hope that the CLF course on Asthma, Allergies, and the Airways will empower patients, families, friends, and loved ones so that they have a better understanding of the disease, and can therefore be active agents in their own healthcare," said Dr. Lewis.

"This is not just a novelty," said Dr. Rocco.  "With today’s healthcare policies people are curious what other options are out there, what should they know to keep them safe and current with the latest healthcare needs.  These are topics that affect so many people and we want the public to be able to reap the benefit of our expertise on the subject matter."

A community event like this gives colleagues the opportunity to share scholarly and creative endeavors with one another and the community.  Whether the work is in development, recently finished, or ongoing over many years, the CLF is a venue in which faculty can display the wide variety of talent and effort that spans the campus community. 

"The information we provide at the forum to the community at large will be similar to what we teach our students here at Samuel Merritt University. I think that will be a big part of the reason for being here," said Dr. Rocco. "These are non-credit courses open to the general public."

The detailed course schedules for the CLF are outlined below.

Class Date Lecture Content: Drugs, Herbal Medicines & Dietary Supplement
1 Tues-9/13 FDA: The Rise of Evidence Based Drug Evaluations
2 Tues-9/20 Drug Studies: The Clinical Trial
3 Tues-9/27 Placebo Sceince and Compassionate Care
4 Tues-10/4 Herbal Medicines and Dietary Supplements
5 Tues-10/11 Drug-Drug Interactions and Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs)
Class Date Lecture Content: Asthma, Allergies, & the Airways
1 Tues-9/13 Defining & Diagnosing Allergic Airway Disease
2 Tues-9/20 Classification of Asthma
3 Tues-9/27 Management of Asthma: Current Treatments
4 Tues-10/4 Nature vs Nurture: the Role of Genetics & the Environment in Asthma
5 Tues-10/11 The Future of Asthma: Research, Education, Legislation, & Therapeutic Development

For more information and to reserve a spot at the Community Learning Forum contact Kasie Lemmer at (510) 869-6511, extension 2582 or email

  Dr. Richard Rocco with DPM student Laksha Dutt