Every day brings new and wonderful surprises to the clinic.
On Tuesday someone brought some spongy roll cake to the clinic to be shared. I had to make A LOT of phone calls in order to set patients up with appointments to meet with insurance counselors. A handful of people hang up on me, which was annoying because then I had to call them back. By the end of the day I was so exhausted I started mumbling and getting tongue tied. One lady took pity on me over the phone. Also, a lady named Ms. Jeanette called us quite a few times.
On Wednesday someone brought a basket of sweet grapes to the clinic to be shared. Mose from the Joy Wellness Center tried to institute a new policy requiring the front desk workers of Shepherd’s Clinic to make sure the Joy Wellness patients remain seated in our (the clinic’s) waiting room until a Joy Wellness worker arrives to escort them back to the Joy Wellness center. Prior to Wednesday, their patients used to walk back there on their own, unannounced, which often flabbergasted the Joy Wellness. Ms. Henrietta, who had an appointment at the Joy Wellness Center, was not fond this new policy. When Leticia, a front desk worker, asked Ms .Henrietta to take a seat in the waiting room, Ms. Henrietta was livid! First, she told off Leticia. Then she complained to the doctors, nurses, staff, custodian, and anybody else she could find about how rude, authoritative, and disrespectful these young new volunteers were. She complained herself all the way back to the Wellness center. Then during her gardening class she raved to her classmates and instructor about the notorious Leticia, before warning them about the dangers of black people and expressing her fear of foreigners. Oh, and Ms. Jeanette called again.
On Thursday someone brought a variety of muffins to the clinic to be shared. I had a scrumptious blueberry muffin. While meeting with a doctor, Mr. Woods, a patient, left his cell phone charging in the waiting room. Someone turned it in to Calvin, a front desk volunteer. About 15 minutes later, some lady who was sitting in the waiting room approached Calvin and asked for the phone, claiming that it belonged to her boyfriend and that she was going to take it to him. Calvin handed over the phone and the lady jetted out the front door. The phone did not belong to the lady’s boyfriend. Mr. Woods was single. We had to call the police. Ms. Jeanette called a couple of times.
On Friday someone brought chocolate chip bagels to the clinic to be shared. I got to screen two new patients and handle some medical records! But Ms. Jeanette did not call.




She wore an emerald green head wrap and an emerald green dress that covered her from shoulders to ankles. The silver colored rings on each finger clinked together each time she moved her hand. Her voice was the sound of waterfalls and meditation. The tenseness in my shoulders that developed throughout the day slowly faded as she described her line of work. I had been waiting to meet Ms _____ since the start of my internship. She does what I am 79% sure I want to do. She informs me that licensed addictions counselors in the state of Maryland have to complete 40 hours of continued training per year in order to keep their licenses up to date. Ms ____ has 200.
I am eager to sit in on a therapy session; I want to see what Ms ____ is all about. My director asks the client for verbal consent. Ms ____ says she needs written consent. When the client signs the form that I helped typed up, I am free to sit in on the general counseling session. Afterwards, Ms ____ reminds me that the session I sat in on was not therapy, but counseling. I take note that there is a difference between the two. She asks me for my thoughts. We debrief.
Afterwards, she tells me to type up another form, so that I can sit in on the group therapy session. I do, and we head over from her office to the house where the women live. Ms ____ speaks to three community members as we head across the street. They smile at her and ask her how she’s been and remind her what an impact she has made in this community. She tells them, hesitantly, that tomorrow will be her last day.
The group therapy session is an hour long. It is 9 pm when it is all said and done. Ms ____ offers to drive me home. I am grateful – walking around in the evening makes me uncomfortable. On the drive home, Ms ____ tells me how she originally did not want to work with this population, she had an interest in geriatrics. The way she tells her journey, this line of work chose her. She offers information about other organizations where I could gain more experience. We drive up to my apartment and she tells me that no matter who I work for, I should always cross my t’s and dot my i’s, because it will be my license on the line. A license I am 87% sure I want.



This week I got a glimpse into my future.

On Thursday, a medical resident from Hopkins came as part of some program to work with our medical director. His Spanish isn’t that great so they asked me to be his interpreter for the day.

Now, during the school year I volunteer as an interpreter at a Family Planning clinic. I figure, it’ll be the same thing only less talk about contraception and there will be more male patients.

Yeah no.

In the four hours that he was there, Dr. Resident saw three patients and I was with him for two of them.

Patient #1:
Pretty simple, muscle pain that Dr. Resident believes to be a pulled muscle from heavy lifting

Now Dr. Resident technically works under the director so when we finished we had to get Dr. Boss Lady to double check and sign off on the diagnosis. The thing was Dr. Boss Lady was also seeing patients so we had to wait for her to finish up and explain our patient to her before we could even go back in the room.

Obviously I felt really awkward during this because I just stood off to the side. It was even worse when they started examining the patient with me in the room cause I didn’t know if it was appropriate I be there or not so I basically stood in a corner like I was on a time out.

Patient #2:
A little more complicated. It went something like this:
See patient was admitted to the hospital recently, okay read the hospital notes. Now the notes don’t really explain what happened, let’s talk to the patient. Okay the patient doesn’t know what to do because treatment didn’t happen since patient is uninsured. Dr. Resident points out that something doesn’t make sense because why would the hospital be like “here’s medicine to make you feel better for the kidney stone pain, let’s hope it passes but it probably won’t pass”.

Dr. Resident tells the patient “Regresamos en 2 minutos. Solo 2 minutos”
Apparently 2 minutes meant more than thirty.

In the end, the patient was left with two horrible options and we couldn’t do more to help out. When Dr. Resident asked why, my supervisor merely told him
“That’d be like opening a black hole”

It sucked but it was true. And the patient seemed to accept it more than Dr. Resident.

Dr. Resident taught me a lot that day about asking questions, different procedures and medications, he even let me write a prescription for a patient.

But the most important thing I learned was this: You can’t save everyone.
In the future, if I make it to med school and beyond, I’m going to get those nice and easy patients but I’m also going to get those patients who need more help than I can offer.

It’s like they said at orientation: you are NOT going to save Baltimore in 8 weeks. But you can make it a little better.



An Expert in the Field

As a Johns Hopkins student, I am very aware that many of the professors I’ve had as instructors are experts in their fields. But what does that mean, really? (Rhetorical question!) An expert in her field is someone who has a special skill or knowledge in her discipline. Now this may be too broad a generalization, but at the risk of misstating something about my cohort, I venture a guess that none of us are exactly experts in our respective placements, whether this is our field or not. This is not a bad thing.

Before moving to Baltimore, the most I knew about it was where it was on the map (and that it wasn’t the capital of Maryland, apparently). However, even after moving to Baltimore, attending JHU and being a part of the 2016 CIIP cohort, I know I’m far from being an expert on Baltimore. Perhaps unique to my experience (and hopefully unique, for the sake of my cohort—it’s been 9-4 training for three weeks) I have had the pleasure of completing three weeks of training before actually starting my six-week summer position as a site counselor for SummerREADs. It’s been three weeks of experts in non-profits, experts in teaching, experts in play (seriously, Playworks, they’re amazing), experts in almost every field that touches even tangentially with a summer reading program. But what I’ve found most important throughout all the hours of workshops and panels and orientations I’ve sat through is that together we may not be experts, but our love for Baltimore has brought us all in one room from 9AM-4PM Monday- Thursday. We may not be experts on the city but we hold a great deal of love for Baltimore, and in my specific organization’s case, the Baltimore’s young people.

The savior complex is a very real, very dangerous risk of working in a city rife with injustice. The obligation to do one’s part must never be conflated with one’s desire to save. The reality is, this city doesn’t need me. It may benefit from the six weeks I spend reading with children from grades 1-3 to improve, or at the very least maintain, literacy levels. But there are a 100 more of me. The city doesn’t need me. But I know I need the city. I don’t need to save the city; I just need to be a part of it. If I called myself a hero, I’d have to claim to be an outsider—but I can’t. This is my community now too. I’ve been fortunate, in my position as a Hopkins student to work with the city’s youth in different public schools from Moravia Park, to Roland Park and now Commodore. I’ve been so touched by my students that I have to claim them as mine, this city as mine—I can’t help it. But that makes the responsibility of providing youth programming mine too (well, mine and MOST’s and a whole bunch of amazing nonprofits putting on programming this summer).

I many not have started my position yet, but three weeks of training in I’m ready to accept what I don’t know, embrace what I do, and do my best to make myself of use if even to one student. There’s a lot I won’t understand, being a new Baltimorean, but the best part of being in Baltimore for the summer is that I have a lot of time before me to fix that.