2019 Week 5: Healthcare/Health Policy


This week I collaborated with Hilena to make a presentation about the social determinants of health which we presented to a group of high school students. While doing research for this presentation I learned some jarring information. I learned that that there is a difference of 20 years in the average life expectancy of people who live in two neighborhoods different that are about 5 miles apart in Baltimore. In the Hollins Market neighborhood the average life expectancy is 63 years whereas in Roland Park the average life expectancy is 83 years. I really hadn’t heard about Hollins Market prior to my research but I was shocked to learn about this gap in average life expectancy for people who live in neighborhoods that are in the same city.

I learned a lot from my research including trends that correlate health and education level and the effects that unsafe housing have on one’s health, but I learned a lot more from the students who I presented to. These students were a part of a summer internship program at MedStar and attend public school in Baltimore. I learned that some of the students live in or nearby Hollins Market. So talking to them about the disparity of health in Baltimore made me feel really weird. I was an outsider telling them about their neighborhoods and I didn’t want the presentation to feel that way. I found myself asking more questions and telling them to correct me or ask me to clarify if I said something they disagreed with.

Many of these students were kind enough to open up about their personal lives and talk about some health issues they have been dealing with such as anxiety, asthma, diabetes and physical pain. I had never dealt with those sorts of issues myself. At some moments I was at a loss for words because I couldn’t think of a way to console them. Hilena gave them tips on managing stress and anxiety. We told the students about resources at Shepherd’s clinic such as acupuncture and yoga classes . They were really engaged in the entire discussion and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to present for them. It’s really no exaggeration when I say that I learned a lot more from them than they learned from me.



Walking into the Joy Wellness Center on Friday morning felt a little different than usual; the dynamic voices of high school students filled in the typical silence. On July 12th, students from the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy visited the wellness center. The group consisted of a mixture of students from all grades 9-12 who are all interested in pursuing careers in the healthcare field. The students made the trip in order to learn more about the clinic and wellness center in hopes of gaining valuable insight into the complex career field that they’re drawn to. Following a tour of the facility, the students participated in a guided meditation session with Sina, the program coordinator at the Joy Wellness Center. Following this meditation, Kristin (another CIIP intern that is working at the Shepherd’s Clinic) and I gave a presentation on the social determinants of health in Baltimore. While the students voiced that they learned a lot from our presentation, I too learned immensely from the process. From researching the material for the Powerpoint to interacting and engaging with the students during the presentation, it was an invaluable experience.

This program made a lasting impression; its impact is vast, for both the students who participate in it and the staff at the wellness center. I recognize that each individual has their own truth in regards to how they processed the day’s impact on them, so I can only attempt to speak for myself. For me, the day was almost surreal; it was amazing to be able to meet a group of black girls with big dreams, and specifically dreams to work in medicine. It was surreal only because I saw myself in them so clearly; it was the youthful passion and excitement with which they spoke of their career plans, and the confidence that this path is definitely for them. It was the truth in their voices as they relayed their aspirations to me. It was their conviction, despite their disadvantaged circumstances and stigmatized brown skin. It was their resilience.



This week at the office I got to lead our Lunch and Learn event for the month. I guess you could say it was one of the big events of my internship, and I really loved it. The Lunch and Learn featured a presentation by a physical therapist about the importance of Kegel exercises, regardless of gender. First off, I thought the presentation was informative, engaging, and funny. The Lunch and Learn program is open to the public, but is usually geared towards topics of interest for the Elders of the LGBT community. Although my job was mostly to hand out sandwiches before the presentation started, I felt like this experience was an example of what CIIP is about to me. I learned so much just from being in the room, talking to the physical therapist, and chatting with the Elders before we dove into the topic of interest. It also prompted me to reflect a lot about my overall experience five weeks into my internship. A lot of my day-to-day work revolves around research on my computer. I’m learning so much every day that I do research, whether it be looking for up to date maps of poverty in Baltimore, or HIV criminalization laws across the country (look it up). But at the same time, Lunch and Learn really reminded me of the thing that I have a real passion for in life: people. I can sometimes come across as shy or uncertain, but interacting with people is what really makes me adore the work I do. To me, that’s what the Community Impact Internship Program is about – community members. Working at the LGBT Health Resource Center this summer has been amazing on so many levels, because I have the opportunity to impact the community in so many different ways. I know the research I’m doing is going to go into presentations that will eventually train healthcare providers to address disparities in LGBT specific healthcare. It’s amazing to me that I also have the opportunity to impact the community on a more individual level every day, even if it’s just by asking an Elder what type of sandwich they would like with their pasta salad.



This week was full of different events and meetings–more than I can write about in this post–and I am entering Week 6 (?!) feeling energized and ready to continue learning. Instead of focusing on one singular standout moment, I will highlight each, since they all deserve a little attention and thought.

// Monday: Endorsement //
Any kind of growth requires internal work, including organizational expansion. We had an all-staff meeting about social media consistency and what it means to “endorse” another organization or person. Who do we offer our platform? How do we decide as an organization the value of certain partnerships?

Everyone’s strong opinions seemed entirely incompatible. No one left the meeting feeling great; we are running into the trouble of trying to separate personal values and workplace values. How far does that separation go before we lose ourselves? I left thinking about whether you can separate the artist’s work from the artist.

// Tuesday: Event Planning and Debriefing //
I spent most of the day planning our Celebration of Life which will be at the end of August, but I ended the day debriefing some of our more recent events with the organizing team. I was surprised that our community organizing process reflects my event planning process–I know more about organizing than I initially thought. I had previously imagined a future in which I involved myself in community organizing, and it became slightly more tangible on Tuesday.

// Wednesday: Lost //
I spent Wednesday feeling a bit lost. I was partly lost in the wealth of support group facilitation materials I need for a project, since there is more information in the world and within people’s shared facilitator experiences than I know what to do with.

Moreso, my lost feeling came when I got lost on the way to an intimate partner violence shelter for a naloxone training. I figured it’d be hard to find the shelter, and it was just as I expected. Being lost led to lateness, but the training went wonderfully.

// Thursday: Who You Listen To //
I was standing in the heat under the pop-up tent with another pop-up staffer, listening to a neighborhood resident argue with him. “I just need to know if drug users will be hurt by Overdose Prevention Sites,” he said again and again. The staffer, who I’ve known for over a year now, told the man everything he needed to know about how we bring people who use drugs into our advocacy and planning processes.

The yelling continued until the man turned to me, asking the same questions he had brought up only minutes before. I repeated what the other staffer had said, nearly word for word, and the man relaxed and smiled at me. “See, that’s all I was asking.” The other staffer, a Black man, was rightfully frustrated that his same points were de-legitimized, but he later thanked me for de-escalating the conflict.

I left the pop-up site feeling torn: I was able to calm down the resident by repeating what was already said, doing my best to actively listen, and reflecting his language. But how do I stop him from only listening to the white woman?

// Friday: Support//
I spent my Friday evening with 6 dedicated volunteers, some who I already met and some new to BHRC. Their willingness to give up an evening was transformative–we are overflowing with completed kits and I can’t stop smiling. I love people.



The highlight of my week was attending an LGBTQ 101 training workshop on Friday, led by my supervisor, for community health workers. It was exciting to see the work of STAR TRACK come alive and have a very tangible and real impact on members outside of the LGBTQ+ community. The audience members were mainly middle-aged and older folks, but despite the generational gap, there was a marked willingness to learn, unlearn, and make honest mistakes, which was pleasant to see.

I also self-assigned a new project, which is a presentation on LGBTQ healthcare, potentially designed for pre-health students. LGBTQ+ individuals face some of the hardest barriers to care, which have yet to be addressed. For anyone choosing to pursue a health profession, I believe that it is important to understand the patient populations that they serve and to be mindful of different social and health issues experienced by different populations, particularly underserved communities of medicine. In this way, patients can be better cared for and health outcomes can improve. I also assembled many STAR TRACK hot sex kits, which include condoms, lube, and a handy informational brochure.

All in all, it has been quite difficult to keep up the momentum from Pride, and I am just trying to carve out a project and an area of expertise that I can more confidently take ownership of and call my own.



Thursday was my first time sitting in on the Wise & Well Center’s member-run Brain Games. I joined the classroom about a half hour after they started, observing as the lead member-volunteer raised flash cards and asked her fellow members to guess who the person was that she was reading fun facts and trivia about. The games transitioned to a logo board game and ended in a round of Family Feud, and I watched as over the course of time the lead member-volunteer and those more invested in the games grew frustrated with others who seemed to care less about the progress of the games and more about joking around with each other.

The session came to a close and the storm raged outside, prompting most members to get home quickly to avoid flooding. Several members stayed behind to chat as we cleaned up and waited for the storm to ease a bit. I continued my usual routine of cleaning and making copies of brain puzzles for members, and when I finished my responsibilities sat down to talk with the members who were still there. The members were talking with the Wise & Well staff member who facilitated brain health and other evidence-based classes at the center, and they expressed their concerns that they felt that the original goal of the group, to have a space for older adults to challenge their cognitive abilities in a fun, like-minded peer setting, was being side-tracked by participants who seemed to come just to socialize and didn’t value the space and group in the same way.

The situation made me think about how we create spaces that help everyone get what they value out of them; particularly with older adult populations, individuals may have fewer opportunities to remain well-integrated in the community and maintain strong interpersonal skills. While we aim to create spaces that allow older adults to come together and fight social isolation, building and maintaining strong interpersonal relationships may not always be a clean process where no one gets offended or hurt, so we must also work to help foster conflict resolution and other people skills in order to truly be effective in fighting social isolation.

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