2017 Week One: Healthcare & Health Policy

picture of Anusha GollapalliANUSHA GOLLAPALLI | SHEPHERD’S CLINIC

LOVE:

The best word I can use to describe my first week at Shepherd’s Clinic.

Love for my placement. Love for my supervisor, the people I work with, and the friendly faces of patients that I greet as they walk the door. Love for the staff, the doctors, and the nurses; all people who are filled with so much compassion and graciously volunteer their time and resources to work at Shepherd’s Clinic. The entire staff is like a family – everyone knows each other and takes the time to bond. The moment I first stepped into the clinic, I was warmly welcomed by my supervisor, who told me she was very excited to have me there. She then introduced me to all the staff and gave me a lot of information on the work I’ll be doing this summer.

This week I’ve spent a lot of time at the front office, managing patient referrals to hospitals, checking patients in and checking them out, and greeting and answering their questions. At first, it felt like there was a lot of information and I thought I would never be able to remember how to do everything. However, as the days go on, I’m finding that it gets a little better with practice (and by asking my co-workers tons of questions!)

I’ve only worked there for four days now, but I have never felt so welcomed, loved, and appreciated like I do at Shepherd’s Clinic. The people I will be spending my summer with are incredibly kind, warm, and welcoming people, and I am so happy that I’m going to get to know everyone better in the upcoming weeks. I’m so excited to learn more and be a part of the loving community that Shepherd’s Clinic cultivates.

picture of Ami Mange CIIPAMI MANGE | BALTIMORE HARM REDUCTION COALITION

What. A. Week. I heard about other interns going through another week of orientation through their community partners, or not having enough work to do. I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect that for myself. But you know what people say about making assumptions – they can make us look like under-appreciated domesticated four-legged animals. To be honest, I’ve definitely worked like one of those this week, and it was GREAT. My placement, the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition (BHRC), has a total of 1 staff member, the Director (my site supervisor). My placement with them has doubled their capacity. I love that. I am on the front lines of all decision-making, and am already leading multiple projects. I was trained on Thursday night to be a overdose prevention trainer, and delivered fast-paced trainings to about 40 people the next morning. Talk about a steep learning curve. Honestly, I am a little intimidated. I feel comfortable approaching my site supervisor, but I am also glad I can rely on the CIIP staff and my Bites of Baltimore group to share my concerns with them and talk to others that may be experiencing something similar. Even with the challenges, or perhaps because of them, I don’t want to change a thing, and I am ready for more.

picture of Eillen Martinez CIIPEILLEN MARTINEZ | THE ESPERANZA CENTER

“Are you tapping her?” The doctor glances at our specialist coordinator expectantly.
A smile creeps to her lips. “Oh yeah, I can do that for her,” our coordinator responds insistently after eyeing the patient’s file.

To those unaccustomed to the vernacular of the Esperanza Center, this exchange might seem some kind of twisted euphemism for an inappropriate hookup.

To those immersed in the language of this center, it is without a doubt a hookup. One that connects uninsurable patients needing specialized care to providers at Johns Hopkins under The Access Partnership: TAP. In other words, undocumented immigrants have the opportunity to be treated for their often long-pestering, life-threatening conditions by some of the leading doctors in the world.

Working with the Esperanza the past two semesters has familiarized me with the TAP language. The hopeful question: “Is he tappable?” The dismayed realization: “Damn it. Can’t tap him.” The celebratory, “We’ve tapped her!”

Funny how that pesky fine print can filter downstream to change the trajectory of a person’s life. Funny how living within a certain zip code will determine whether or not you can get treated for cancer. Or get that hernia removed that’s keeping you from going to work, and therefore unable to support your family, and even more anxious than you already are. How a program that preaches extended access of healthcare blatantly shuts the door to many, leaving some in the dust with no other option.
Hilarious.

It wouldn’t be the first time immigrants are left on the curb.

It’s a good thing immigrants carry resilience and community: what Esperanza Center is built on. When our resources such as TAP or our primary care office can’t serve our patients based on their needs, we direct them to other resources. We keep moving forward.

That’s one of the countless lessons I learned this week: we are the embodiment of yellow pages for immigrants. Which means that one of my jobs is to transfer two 4-inch, overflowing binders worth of the hundreds of connections and resources in Baltimore and Esperanza into my brain so that I may relay the relevant information to those in need of it. Maybe my brain capacity is deteriorating, but to me this task is staggering; inefficient to say the least. It’s got my gears turning, mulling over ideas of how to improve the organization of our resources to make our yellow pages role more effective. This way, we can improve the support system we provide for our patients, even if we can’t treat or tap them.

picture of Yamini PatibandlaYAMINI PATIBANDLA | CHARM CITY CARE CONNECTION

If you asked me to describe my first week at Charm City Care Connection, the first word to pop up would be H-O-T. It’s certainly not the most articulate word I could choose, but it is my most immediate memory. I think of the quick shuffle my supervisor and I picked up towards her car, once we determined the heat to be a degree too close to scorching. As we drove towards R House for lunchtime brainstorm we took a route I’d never been on before. The cool helped me think and we started to reflect on our upbringings. We were both from warm sunny states, so even in this special heat, we declared our love for Baltimore and its unique character. I stopped to think however when my supervisor asked me if I would raise my children in Baltimore. Since freshman year, I started to develop this strong belief that children should be raised in an urban setting, especially since most of my own personal growth happened in Baltimore (not my sunny suburb). So when she asked me my first answer was yes, but surprisingly hers wasn’t. She told me that she saw a shroud of sadness every day coating the city and there was always a continual feeling of struggle, in a very extreme sense. As we drove through the traffic, she told me she wanted her children to grow up in Washington, DC and visit Baltimore once in awhile. I didn’t disagree, it sounded like a great plan, but it also forced me to ask what lay ahead for Baltimore. If the generation closest to settling down was avoiding our city, how would it necessarily move forward? I found my answer from the energy and fervor of other nonprofits like my community partner that were pushing forward to dispel the city’s issues, one focus at a time. When I spoke to my cohort (Healthcare + Health Policy) about their nonprofits I was inspired by the work they were already putting in, especially as they focused in on their unique targets. So I think my more composed answer to this week’s word might be reflective. I’ve started on my wheel towards reflection and I’m slowly beginning to find answers just by observing the work of others in this charming city, despite or maybe with the heat. I’m excited for the next few weeks and the potential questions that pop up along the way.

picture of Corine Peifer CIIPCORINE PEIFER | CHASE BREXTON LGBT RESOURCE CENTER

PRIDE. If you asked me to describe my first week of work at Chase Brexton’s LBGT Health Resource Center, I would simply say, “PRIDE.” Yes, PRIDE begins tomorrow (June 17th) and I have been preparing for it all week so it has played an important role in my first few days, yet I have experienced my own form of PRIDE. Positivity. Research. Inspired. Discovery. Excitement. PRIDE.

On the first day, I was overwhelmed with a sense of positive emotion and optimism as I looked towards the summer after undergoing orientation with my fellow peers. I was nervous about the challenges that awaited, yet I knew that I would personally and professionally grow as I worked to manage and overcome them. Planning to work hard, I was positive that I could help my community partner and would do so in any way I could.

As one begins any job, lots of research is simply part of the process of getting to know the organization, with regards to its history and mission, so that one can better serve it. From learning about various topics, such as the beginning of Chase Brexton as a gay men’s clinic during the HIV/AIDS epidemic and LGBTQ community and culture, I searched the internet and office materials to get a firm understanding and comprehension about the mission at large, properly serving the LGBTQ community with regards to physical, mental, and social care.

I consider myself very lucky to be working with people who are true intellectuals and always strive to improve themselves and their work. They all have unique personal and professional experiences that they can draw from in order to expand the office’s services and community outreach. They are all creative in their own way and I find it inspiring to be working beside them all as I see the passion that they all have blazing within.

I have already had a few small lessons, such as the crucial life skill of how to make a button, yet I know in the environment that I am in, there will be all forms of discoveries and development this summer. Whether it be learning and connecting the dots regarding the LGBTQ community and the health disparities it routinely faces or learning new grant reporting processes, I will be exposed to a wide range of healthcare elements and I am grateful and honored to have that opportunity to discover and wonder.

Arguably the most important, this week has left me excited. As I write this the night before PRIDE, I feel as though I am a kid again on Christmas Eve. It will be my first PRIDE and I am proud to be a part of it. Working for a wonderful organization and people, I am sure that this summer will be one of the best in the books. With my work “to-do” list all laid out, there are numerous projects that I look forward to investing time in and working hard to complete. I am excited to learn more about health care administration and community outreach, while also creating a positive impact on my site and its mission.

So yeah, PRIDE.

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