2019 Week 6: Healthcare/Health Policy
This week I created a mental health and wellness presentation aimed for young boys in the community. Every month, STAR TRACK gives a presentation to a boys’ guild, and this month, they requested one on mental health. I also created a brochure with quick and easy breathing, self-affirming, and yoga exercises to supplement the presentation. I also finally received the official STAR TRACK orientation presentation that covers everything about how the organization was founded, how it performs the work that it does, and how it and its mission have evolved over time. STAR TRACK first began as the SPLICE program, which was aimed to serve pregnant women with HIV. Then, the program rebranded as PACE, a program which served the youth who were then born with HIV. Afterwards, STAR TRACK evolved into what it is now, an organization that provides comprehensive health services and education to adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 26.
Much of the information in the presentation was familiar to me, which shows how much you can learn on the job without being given formal training, but there was also a significant amount that was new to me, for instance, the ramifications of labeling HIV/AIDS as strictly a gay black man issue. This concept can be particularly harmful for queer black women, especially trans women before transitioning, because they themselves may not consider HIV/AIDS as one of their issues and therefore avoid seeking help because society has conditioned this health issue to be one for a specific group of people rather than for all people. Health education for queer black women may also be restricted to pregnancy prevention, which is not at all comprehensive.
Also, during our Bites session this week, our group had the chance to explore Station North, a place that I don’t normally frequent, and it was an eye-opening experience to see such profound and beautiful works of art and learn about the histories that inspired their creation. Baltimore is a city interspersed with many artistic gems, and this experience has motivated me to see every mural in Baltimore.
On Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a meeting for the Falls Coalition, a group made up of organizations in Baltimore such as the Baltimore City Health Department, a senior independent living community, healthcare organizations, an occupational therapist, and an organization that helps provide housing upgrades to benefit seniors (HUBS). The main objective of the Falls Coalition is to reduce falls in certain high-priority zip codes in Baltimore City, as these zip codes contain the highest rates of falls and senior populations. Falls are one of the top risk factors for lowered quality of life in old age, and injury is the one of the top leading causes of death in old age. Falls can cause someone to go from being able to live relatively independently to needing to be in assisted living, and it can lead to so many other issues such as social isolation and reduced access to healthcare professionals, to name a few.
Some of the main takeaways from the meeting were that organizations should work at multiple levels organization-wide to help create a culture shift that encourages seniors to think about falls prevention as healthy aging which will allow them to continue finding meaning in life and to incorporate falls prevention principles into learning opportunities in everyday activities, such as encouraging dance instructors to mention falls prevention tips that are a natural part of the learning in the dance class. Also, they discussed how to create a culture that helps seniors feel more secure reporting any falls they may have had to the management at the independent living senior community, since residents may fear that reporting a fall may risk their ability to continue to live in the community as they need to be able to live independently.
The meeting reminded me of how important it is for me to feel that I am working on issues with others in a team and community environment. Since my supervisor moved to New York at the end of my second week, I have had a lot more responsibilities that keep me at my desk than I would like, and I have felt very much like I have been working alone and disconnected from the bigger-picture goals and mission of what my work is aiming for. It was valuable for me to be reminded of why I do what I do and the community outside of just the people I interact with at my organization site. Just as I am working to help build and foster a community for older adults to support one another in their health journeys, I hope I can do that work in the context of community and fellow organizations as well.
As the end of CIIP comes closer and closer, I am having a hard time finding the words to explain how much this summer has meant to me. If there were a word that was a combination of happy, humbled, thoughtful, tired, engaged, overwhelmed, curious, excited, and loved — that would be exactly how I feel right now. More than ever, I am grateful for the wonderful people who surround me.
Rajani lights up every room she’s in and is one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met. Her thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and willingness to make things right are amazing. Every time we sit and talk together, I learn something new from her; I feel like we could talk for hours on end.
Owen is dedicated and the kind of friend I aspire to be. I never doubt for a second that he loves the work he does, and his optimism and energy are contagious. We’ve been promising each other that we’ll go thrift shopping together, and I know that it is bound to happen one of these days (especially after he moves to Baltimore!).
Sefa is a new addition to our office, but you would never know that by how well she’s gotten to know everyone and how easily we transition from work talks to life talks. She is adventurous and the kind of confident I always want to be, and I’m so glad I’ve gotten to spend a few weeks with her.
Tricia was one of the very first people I facilitated trainings with at BHRC last summer, and it’s been incredible to know her from then on. She has this never-ending drive that radiates from within her, as well as a wealth of drug policy knowledge beyond compare. Tricia regularly inspires me to see the bigger picture of the work I do and to get (much) better about answering my emails.
Sam always makes me laugh, even when I don’t know what’s funny. When I first met Sam, I immediately wanted to be her friend; she is down-to-earth, friendly, witty, and passionate. Her connections to so many people and places around Baltimore constantly astound me, and I really admire how dedicated she is to those she cares about.
Ricky gives me a big smile every time he sees me; I don’t know if he knows it, but it makes my day constantly. He is kind, lighthearted, clearly dedicated to his work, and potentially the most competitive person duckpin bowling has ever seen. I am so lucky to know him.
Harriet has continually inspired me every day for the past two summers (really, the past year and counting). Most, if not all, of my friends–within CIIP and outside of it–have heard me talk about my incredible supervisor and how she is the person I strive to be. Words can’t describe how much she’s taught me nor how much I appreciate her consistent energy, presence, and care for those around her. It’s been a life-changing experience sitting 5 feet from her these past two summers.
All that being said, I am so thankful for the long-lasting connections I’ve made. I couldn’t imagine my summer (or BHRC!) without these astounding, hard-working, compassionate, lovable people.
This week was definitely one to remember; I began co-facilitating the Life Balance/ Weight Management Workshop alongside my supervisor and the program director of the Joy Wellness Center, Tracy Holcomb. I was honored when she asked me to help lead the program, which is focused on helping clients who have been diagnosed with prediabetes/diabetes maintain a healthy life balance. On the day that I first met Tracy, we spoke a lot about our shared passion for helping individuals either live with diabetes or avoid its diagnosis by making positive life changes. I gained much needed insight and became even more interested in the area. A diabetes nurse educator by trade, Tracy is extremely knowledgeable in the subject and I learn so much from her every day.
The Life Balance/Weight Management Workshop runs from February through June, and participants are weighed in every week in efforts to highlight and encourage their progress through healthy life changes. Following June, the participants come in monthly for post core sessions. We had our first post core session on Friday, and Tracy and I gave a lesson on the importance of sleep in maintaining good physical health. While it was rewarding to interact with community members and teach them healthy sleeping habits, I was grateful to be able to learn alongside them. We collaborated by brainstorming a list of things that may be affecting our sleep schedules detrimentally, and we followed this by coming up with ways to overcome these barriers to sleep. While the importance of sleep has always been apparent to me, I never thought that it would directly affect one’s onset of diabetes and other related conditions. This workshop—among other services that Joy Wellness offers—has inspired me to be more vocal with my family members by encouraging healthy lifestyle changes.
As the the CIIP internship period is coming to an end, I keep trying to do my best to help the clinic in any way that I can. This week I felt especially useful because I was able to present all of the data that I collected over the course of the last few weeks to the clinic. I was told to give out surveys to all of the patients who check out of the clinic. I worked on a program called EpiInfo7 to create a way to track all the the information from those surveys to compile it into data. Mainly the data consisted of information regarding patient’s satisfaction with the clinic and how often they took their medication if prescribed. The surveys also contained data on patients with diabetes. All of this information would be useful when writing grants to obtain money for the clinic. The hardest part of my data collection was making the data show month by month analysis in an organized fashion, but after playing around with the program, I was able to figure out how to make the data display in a way that was most convenient. They were very proud of the work I put into the survey data collection and I was very proud of myself as well.
After collecting all of the patient satisfaction data, I was looking for more ways to help out around the clinic using data collection. Recently, It has been really hot outside and I’ve noticed that more and more patients are cancelling their appointments. I began to wonder how many of these patients were not able to come into the clinic due to transportation issues, or other health concerns. This idea is currently just in the works in my mind, but I thought it would be a good idea to include some questions about transportation in the surveys as well. Some patients may be coming to the clinic by car or bus, but others may not have a car or access to public transportation and have to walk or use more money for taxi service. I think that having this kind of question in the surveys would be helpful in obtaining grants as well because it could go towards providing bus passes for patients and could also answer the questions regarding patient cancellation rates especially during extreme weather conditions like the conditions that we have been experiencing for the last week here in Baltimore.
It really feels like time as flown by. I can’t believe I’m going to be entering my second to last week of my internship! Looking back on this week, two events really stand out to me. The first is Chase Brexton’s new employee orientation. Every month, Chase Brexton holds a day long orientation in order to train new staff. Each orientation has about two and a half hours dedicated to training regarding the LGBT community, which is a sizeable chunk. I think that says a lot not only about the demographics of the patients that we see at Chase Brexton, but also the values that it holds as a healthcare provider. So far, I’ve been to two new employee orientations, and each one has been a valuable experience. Although my job is to assist my supervisor, Kate, as she does the training, I really just love being in the room. In fact, assisting Kate with trainings is one of my favorite parts of my job. I find myself relating them to my own experience of orientation week for CIIP. I always catch myself watching everyone’s body language, and recognizing the excitement, nerves, and enthusiasm that comes with (for most folks) learning something completely new. I say completely new because LGBT specific healthcare and healthcare-relevant interactions are rarely discussed in professional training or schooling. As I mentioned in my first blog post of the summer, I still really enjoy being in a room full of people who are eager to do good – the feeling never gets old.
The other thing about this week that I really enjoyed was actually my site visit with Nairuti. Not just because I got to meet someone new and explain what I do at the office, but also because it opened up a really valuable dialogue between Kate and me. I think within the rush of the workday, it’s hard to find time to check in with each other, but I really enjoyed having the time just to talk about what I’ve learned so far in my time at the LHRC and why I think specific experiences have been important. On that note, I want to give a piece of advice to any current or future interns reading this post: take the time to talk to your supervisor! It’s an amazing way to reflect on your time at your placement, and an even better way to form a connection outside of just working together.Tags: Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition, BHRC, Chase Brexton LGBT Health Resource Center, CIIP, ciip 2019, Joy Wellness Center, Keswick Multi-Care Center, Shepherd's Clinic, STAR TRACK