LUCINDA CHIU - JOY WELLNESS CENTER, WEEK 2
This week, I have gotten into the routine of various tasks at the Joy Wellness Center. When patients call, I am eager to pick up the phone and find out how I can best help them. I know where files are and am now able to answer the questions new volunteers have. This being said, I have also begun to notice small frustrations and flaws in our system and patient population.
Throughout the week, I made phone calls to schedule diabetes self-management (DSM) consults for our patients. To be eligible for a DSM consult at Joy Wellness Center, the patients are referred to us from either Shepherd’s Clinic or Medstar Hospital. We have a thick binder in our office filled with patients whose physicians have tagged them as being pre-diabetic or diabetic. As I went through the patient lists and spoke with them, some were willing and interested in setting an appointment at that moment. Others needed to check their schedule first, and thus said they would call back. A few, however, were uninterested. They felt they had their blood sugar levels under control, and so I didn’t push. My supervisor, however, suggested that I give the patients less of an option, that I tell them that I am calling to schedule the appointment, not that I am calling to gauge their interest in an appointment. My supervisor’s suggestion made sense to the Hopkins science major in me. It is, as with any disease, better to get it under control as early as possible, whether through education or medication. Yet, from our discussions during orientation, I felt that I was stepping beyond my bounds. In this situation, I was questioning the patient’s judgement of her own health and self-control, and telling her that I, and her physician, knew what was better for her.
This feeling lingered with me as I continued to schedule DSM and nutrition consults for patients who at first did not feel they needed one. Then, during a weight loss food demo we conducted, I listened to the patients talk about how they slowly changed their diets and their lifestyles. The change wasn’t because they weren’t aware that they needed to eat more vegetables, but because, through DSM consults, they learned about how diabetes affected their bodies physiologically. This knowledge gave them the motivation to drive extra minutes to a supermarket and to shop around the perimeter, getting produce rather than processed carbohydrates.
I continue to wrestle with this concept in medical settings, but also with respect to changes that are going on around Baltimore and the interactions between Hopkins and the community. A fine line exists between providing suggestions with the best interest of the receiver or the giver in mind. At Joy Wellness Center, however, the latter half of the week has now convinced me that our work at the clinic is on the patient-focused side of that line.
POONAM GUPTA - STAR TRACK, WEEK 2
One of the larger adjustments of this week was definitely an increased sense of comfort and almost “finding my place” within the organization. Though I’m still doing a mishmash of activities both in the office location and the clinic, I’m starting to get more concrete, longer-term activities as well as becoming part of certain projects people are a part of. My first week was filled with a lot of paperwork and, though important, busy work. Now, however, with Pride approaching and Star Track being the organization that plans the Youth Zone section, there’s a lot to do both for the weekend of Pride and the week leading up with the Star Track specific events. If anything, I began to feel a little overwhelmed, specifically earlier this week. I have weekly check-ins with my supervisor and her preferred method of relaying information is to give it to me all at once in a long conversation about everything there is to do. Once I left that meeting, I had trouble arranging what I should prioritize and the next day I voiced my concern to her. One of the high points of the week was just how understanding she was, and moreover how relatable my problem was to both her and really everyone that works there. We then worked together on a plan for future check-ins that works for both of us, and having that problem-solving experience was definitely an experience I’ve learned from.
All of this aside, my experiences this week included a great deal more of community interaction and exposure. Yesterday, Star Track had a testing event at Walgreens in which we offered free HIV testing as well as outreach in the neighborhood offering people condoms. Walking up to complete strangers offering them condoms was a lot more fun than I anticipated and, more importantly, people were much more receptive. Rather than just averting their eyes in disgust like I can guarantee the majority of folks would do where I’m from, they not only openly took some but stopped to talk to us for awhile, either joking about their sex lives or asking earnest questions about HIV testing. Though there were also the few unresponsive community members, and the majority weren’t adolescents which is our target population, simply walking around the block proved to be very effective. Having been in Baltimore for two years, I’m realizing more and more how open people are to conversation and how much respect there is for community. Though sex is still a taboo topic to others, many have no problem discussing it and receiving some advice, which to me seems like a much healthier alternative to keeping it suppressed. What I learned was that more than this, they’re also very open about their sex lives and overall sexuality. In this next week, I’m looking forward to further developing my relationship with the community and increasing the level of conversation about these topics.
JOYCE LIN - CHASE BREXTON, WEEK 2
A small step for Chase Brexton, a giant leap for Joyce Lin. This week I graduated from sorting condoms to labeling and stuffing envelopes! Though my contribution is still less than I hoped it would be, I am happy to report that I am doing very necessary work, addressing letters and stuffing envelopes. Even though its quite tedious and repetitive, I am proud of the fact that Chase Brexton clients around the state will be opening letters that I wrote and stuffed. In addition, I finally secured my own cubicle with a name tag after a week and a half of floating around the office common table. I am beginning to get used to the routine of 9-5 but it is still a struggle after 3pm. However, the days that I get a project or get to keep busy, feel much shorter and less tedious. One thing I have mastered after this week is the art of folding letters to fit into envelopes with breakneck speed as well as most of the postal codes that correspond to the different areas and neighborhoods in Maryland.
Outside of the office work, I have been exploring the restaurants around Chase Brexton during my lunch break. So far, I've spotted a few of the spots that peer mentors and friends have suggested and will be hitting them up in the near future.
Oh and I also got to make a HIV prevention cascade diagram using Chase Brexton PrEP data! But I don't think my supervisor ever looked at the finished product...
Overall, decent week, looking forward to more projects to make the day go by.
VICTORIA CHEN - CHASE BREXTON, WEEK 2
"Age is just a number." Never in my life has this been more true.
As I walked into a roomful of twenty strangers, it became immediately obvious that I was the youngest one there... by far. I was in a new place surrounded by new faces. Suddenly if felt like the first day of 6th grade again, where the table you sat at for lunch would determine the rest of your fate for the next 3 years. Ok, so maybe I was being a little dramatic in expressing my anxiety, but it didn't make the experience any less daunting. I was walking into the very first day of HIV Counseling, Testing, and Referral Training--most frequently attended by social workers, nurse practitioners, and MPH candidates. This 3-day state certification training would equip me with the necessary skills to not only administer rapid HIV testing, but also provide pre- and post-test counseling on risk reduction, behavior change, and linkage to care. It was a dream come true.
Surrounded by experienced community health workers and disease intervention specialists seeking continuing education units, I felt extremely inadequate in terms of professional experience and age. So naturally at first, I was less willing to speak up and chat with the people around me. However as the day passed, I was pleasantly surprised to find that though I may lack in professional training, I actually have much more experience in HIV outreach work than many of the other participants. I was also so glad to be learning persuasion and behavior change techniques in regards to practicing safer sex, something that I have had less exposure to prior to this week. "What are you currently doing to protect yourself?" is a far better question to ask than "Do you use condoms?" especially if you've never met your client before. Ultimately, HIV counseling is about gaining trust and building relationships---even with people who may not want to hear what you have to say. So I can't wait to start practicing the skills that I have learned this past week!