2021 Week 6: Healthcare/Health Policy

OZIOMA ANYANWU | MOMCARES

This week I came to the realization that my time with MOMCares this summer has gone by incredibly quickly. With only two weeks left, I’m appreciating that I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the management of a non-profit as well as the information that is being taught to the young mothers in our program. For example, over the past few weeks we’ve had a visiting speaker that focuses on goal setting and achievement. During this week’s session, she played a video discussing different people’s perceptions of success and how they reached it. For some success may be accumulating a certain amount of money, while for others it may be being known by a certain amount of people. Regardless the video reminded me of my purpose of participating in CIIP this summer.

As a pre-med student, I’ve always felt like there’s an expectation to take the traditional route to becoming a doctor. This usually consists of some combination of shadowing hours, research projects and crying over textbooks. But even before I came to Hopkins, I had the sense that the traditional path wasn’t one I’d necessarily care to follow. More so I’ve always been attracted to the human aspect of medicine and learning more about myself through it.

In the past few weeks, we have conversations about more technical subjects such as birth control and birth-giving. But at the same time, the Young Mothers program creates a space in which young black women can share their experiences and be vulnerable with one another. This has been done through telling private stories or relaying advice, but regardless has shown me there’s more to healthcare, and specifically doula work, than the technical aspects.

In short, I may not be on the traditional path of “success” for some. However, I do know with each day I’ve spent with MOMCares I’m getting closer to finding out what that means for me while also getting to see firsthand the more “human” side to healthcare.

CARLOS BURI-NAGUA | CENTRO SOL

My placement at Centro SOL falls under the placement area of Healthcare or Health Policy. However, during my time with the organization and with CIIP’s weekly Bites session, I have learned that my placement intersects with other placement areas. Before I begin talking about the intersections of my placement, I first want to talk about how my organization ties with healthcare or health policy. When I first think of this focus area, I immediately think of working with patients, health care providers, and overall, being in a clinical setting, whether virtual or in-person. Additionally, I think of programming with aims to improve a community’s health with campaigns or such. However, this is necessarily not the case. Most of the time, I am with high school students (don’t get me wrong, I like working with the youth!) and helping lead zoom sessions and focus on developing a research curriculum. At times, I wonder where the connection is to health care or health policy, and it makes me rethink the term healthcare in a looser sense. By introducing Centro SOL’s summer scholars to the field of research, I hope that they become more interested in medicine as a whole and can narrow their interests within the health care field as we explore many research topics. As we finalize and submit the students’ research presentations and abstracts, we watch videos of Latinx individuals in the health care field, ranging from scientists and medical students. At the end of each video, we discuss how the video made us feel, and it’s always heartwarming to hear their responses and how inspired they are to continue pursuing their dreams. Sometimes, just knowing that someone with a similar background has followed a similar career can motivate them to continue following their dreams.

There are now two weeks left of the Summer Scholars program. While thinking about CIIP’s other placement areas and possible intersections, I can think of one: education/youth programming and advocacy. I am the zoom lead host and curriculum developer for the research component of the student’s summer program, and I also facilitate the weekly research “office hours” with students and volunteers. Looking back, I was never formally introduced to the field of research, and in fact, I always thought only those with college degrees could conduct research. It was until I arrived at Hopkins that I realized that many of my peers had been involved in research projects since high school. If I knew that anyone, regardless of their background or identities, can participate in a research project, I would have jumped on the opportunity. But now, I have the wonderful opportunity to provide Latinx high schoolers an introduction to research with sessions and feedback in preparation for their end-of-the-program research presentations. For that, I am grateful.

Furthermore, another aspect of my internship is to interface between Centro SOL and their community partners that serve as worksites for participating youth and Baltimore’s YouthWorks, a city-wide summer jobs program that connects youth to summer jobs. This part of my internship is different from the Summer Scholars program; It is known as the Summer Engagement program. I mostly communicate with parents about the program’s progress and assist in organizing events for parents. Overall, I serve as a mentor for the high school students, being a helping hand with their summer experiences.

Throughout both programs, I hope to continue providing students with academic or professional help and examples with guest speakers to show that immigration status does not reduce their potential to be successful. During my time with Centro SOL and after the summer, I wish to continue giving Latinx students the confidence and resources to pursue their dreams.

JULIA BURLESON | BALTIMORE HARM REDUCTION COALITION

Earlier this summer, No Boundaries Coalition invited BHRC to set up a table beside them at the Pennsylvania Avenue Farmers Market to teach people about what naloxone is and how to use it. Siena (the CIIP intern at No Boundaries Coalition) and I worked together to organize the event and find a time that worked for both of our supervisors. No Boundaries Coalition is under the Environment & Food Access CIIP placement area, and BHRC is under the Healthcare and Health Policy CIIP placement area, but the overall goals of the organizations greatly align and complement each other. No Boundaries Coalition strives to uplift and unify the West Baltimore community, and BHRC aims to mobilize community members for the health, dignity, and safety of people targeted by the war on drugs and anti sex-worker policies. In this mutually beneficial relationship, BHRC can engage more people in the West Baltimore area with harm reduction. We can offer help prevent overdose deaths by giving away naloxone and train community members on how to react to an overdose. At the same time, No Boundaries Coalition helps bring the community together by destigmatizing conversations surrounding drugs and overdoses and helps keep community members safe by making life-saving knowledge and resources more accessible.

I see many potential collaborations between BHRC and other placement areas. Like the No Boundaries Coalition partnership, BHRC could work with other organizations such as the Farm Alliance or Whitelock Community Farm that have a table at farmers’ markets. At the farmers’ markets, we could talk to a diverse group of people about harm reduction and provide naloxone or safer use kits in areas where our routine outreach and education events do not take us. Out for Justice is also a potential organization that BHRC could partner with to strengthen the policy and advocacy arm of our organization. BHRC continues to advocate for the decriminalization of drug paraphernalia and sex work repeal of racist policies from the War on Drugs. While Out for Justice mainly advocates for the reform of policies that adversely affect reintegration into society, the organization’s focus on social justice issues combined with their legal and advocacy expertise could lead to many advocacy collaborations between our organizations. We could share resources and contacts in Annapolis, write op-eds, and/or create coalitions and support each other when giving testimonies in front of legislative bodies among other things. Collaborations between non-profit organizations in Baltimore will help amplify our messages and strengthen our moral, economic, or political support in the community.

KOYE OPUTA | EPISCOPAL REFUGEE & IMMIGRANT CENTER ALLIANCE

Suffering often joins the discussion of intersectionality. It makes sense, as it is a term conceived in acknowledgment of the identities often overlooked. Let me join the discussion of intersection.

As a child of Nigerian immigrants, I am familiar with the respects due to my elders, a reverence for education, and the high standards that I am to hold myself to in the presence of Westerners. As the “ada,” or eldest daughter, I am familiar with cooking the naija holiday dishes in large quantities under three hours (with the help of my sister), the one-hour cleaning frenzy before a surprise guest visits the house and supporting siblings through the emotional trials of hard coursework and American high school.

As a member of Generation Z, and privileged with a schooling background that prioritized technological fluency, I am familiar with adapting to ever-changing computer software, teaching the less technologically adept how to forward a photo on Whatsapp, and identifying common internet scams.

I most often see these identities intersect in a rather calculated insult or catcall. However, during my time with ERICA, I have seen joy join the discussion of intersectionality. I saw joy when a program participant from Togo beamed at me as I taught her how to access her digital workplace, and again when she expressed her pride to see one of her people, a West African, doing well in America. Joy joined again when I visited a program participant from Liberia who expressed her pride at how I “carried myself like a true African daughter,” and how she was glad to know me.

I am glad to know those two women. Until them, I never saw more than responsibility in being a daughter from a Nigerian household, or little more than judgment for being a “Gen Z kid,” but these kind women showed me appreciation and joy in these intersections.

I see such beautiful intersections in the non-profit network, as well. Non-profits too often stand for the needs of many suffering identities when those in power have failed to do so. It is a shame to see my peers belabored with the work that ought to be done by the government, but it is astonishing to see them work, as well. I have been privileged to see how ERICA can connect patients with Shepherd’s Clinic for low-cost medical support, with the Intercultural Counseling Connection for culturally responsive counseling and therapeutic services, or with Esperanza Center for legal support, or to see ERICA step in as a dynamic, multidimensional support network for program participants who do not qualify for support in most government or non-profit programs, despite their need for it. The intersection is beautiful.

There has long been suffering with intersecting identities, I do not dismiss that. There has long been joy with intersecting identities, and I no longer forget that.

INDIRA SUMMERVILLE | SHEPHERD’S CLINIC

At my placement, the intersection of race, nationality, and class is very apparent in our patient population. The clinic primarily treats the uninsured and underinsured residents of Baltimore, and we have income boundaries that lie slightly above the Medicaid income caps, which are slightly above the Federal Poverty Level. Consequently, the majority of the patients we see are considered low-income in terms of economic class. Additionally, I have noticed that a lot of our patients are people of color, with a significant proportion also being non-US citizens, with English being a second, or even third language. Therefore, our patients are often within the intersections of race, low-income class, and nationality, as non-English speakers/non-US citizens. This has informed the way in which we, as providers interact with our patients, ensuring we are instilling trust and understanding when we treat them, so that they are as comfortable as possible. For example, we use language lines to communicate with patients who do not speak English, and ensure that we have alternative resources available for our undocumented patients who seek assistance that may be inaccessible due to their immigration status.

Shepherd’s Clinic definitely intersects with many other CIIP partners, especially those in the healthcare/health policy field. The clinic is part of an organization called Baltimore CONNECT, an organization that allows for many community-based organizations to meet and share resources that benefit Baltimore residents. Within Baltimore CONNECT, I have encountered nonprofits at which other CIIP interns have been placed, such as Veena Thamilselvan, an intern at Keswick, which is a long-term care facility. Additionally, we refer a lot of our patients to other nonprofits that address other areas of inequities such as food insecurity, homelessness, and unemployment. A lot of the organizations we recommend are also CIIP placements, such as the Franciscan Center, the Esperanza Center, and Centro Sol. Clearly, there are many points at which Shepherd’s Clinic and other CIIP partners intersect, which could lead to some great collaboration!

MICHAEL VIDAL | ESPERANZA CENTER

Esperanza Center works to help immigrant families in Baltimore receive lifesaving medical care. With many patients coming from Central America, immigrant identity – predominately Central American identities – are continuously on staff minds. In fact, many people in the clinic come from immigrant backgrounds and speak predominately Spanish. Culture, race, ethnicity, nationality is celebrated and understood for better relationships with patients and each other.

Esperanza Center, however, is a part of Catholic Charities. This makes gender a bit complicated. The leaders and staff of the clinic are women. Wardi is the volunteer and TAP coordinator. Kathrine is clinic director. Maria is dental service organizer. Yani and Tania keep everything functional at the front desk. Yet, the clinic is unable (i.e., restrict) to see sexual health, women, and gender health concerns. These patients must be given other resources. Some employees hesitate to mention organizations like Planned Parenthood. It begs the question: is the clinic reaching its full potential as a staple in Baltimore’s immigrant community with this over site? Regardless of this stance, the clinic employees regularly screens for domestic violence and considers the oppression of both womanhood and immigration status on an individual in the United States.

On this, there is potential for collaboration with many – if not all – organizations. The clinic actually partners with the Maryland SPCA to provide pet care once a month for immigrant families! I am currently messaging with the House of Ruth for domestic violence information in clinic bathrooms. Because of the importance of Esperanza Center to Spanish-only speakers in Baltimore, collaboration can extend to donations of products and services. Today, we discussed finding donated school supplies for parents as the come for their child’s school physical. There are too many opportunities to discuss in the space provided. But rest assured, I will speak about it with my supervisor!

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