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Out of the Mouths of Babes: A Student Perspective

September 30, 2014

Most students come to Health Partners having never worked with an underserved population.  For these students, the time spent at the Clinic is focused more on understanding the needs and limitations of this demographic when applying therapy rather than the clinical skills themselves.  Maggie is not one of those students.  She has made a point of understanding the needs of those less fortunate than her over her college career.  I’d like to bottle her and force-feed her to every freshman pharmacy student.  Maggie shares her experiences at the Clinic and serving other communities in need in our latest Student Perspective:  

I will always remember the day when rotation assignments were posted for my class.  Most people were excited because they discovered they would be travelling to Hawaii in October or Florida in January, but I was excited because I was spending September at the Health Partners Free Clinic in Troy, Ohio.  Needless to say, my friends were baffled by my enthusiasm.

Unlike most pharmacy students, I had the unique experience of spending two summers as an AmeriCorps member with the Children’s Hunger Alliance (CHA).  CHA is a nonprofit organization focused on directly feeding children nutritious meals, increasing easy access to nutritious food, and educating children about healthy eating and exercise.  I spent the summers working with inner-city community centers to provide nutrition/physical education programming to elementary school children of low-income families.   Even though I was there to teach, I believe the whole experience was about learning.  I learned that not all children grow up the way I did and most importantly that it’s not their fault or their parents’ fault.  There were children in my class who had never seen apples or potatoes outside of what processed or fried versions come in their Happy Meal.  I had children tell me that they disliked summer because they were always hungry.  During the school year, these children get free/reduced breakfasts and lunches which take a huge burden off of parents to provide for their families.  However during the summer, the money gets stretched further because there is more food to purchase.  I learned about food deserts and observed their effect on children first hand.  AmeriCorps opened my eyes to disparities that existed in my own community, but more importantly it gave me a chance to do something about it.

Health Partners Free Clinic came highly recommended for someone with my background in nonprofit organizations.  AmeriCorps taught me about the struggles of underserved populations and I wanted to apply that knowledge to the health care field.  I am so grateful that I ranked this site first on my rotation wish list because it has truly exceeded my expectations.

So let me tell you what I have learned this month:

I firmly believe that health care is a right, not a privilege.  It is disheartening to know that there are people who go untreated because they cannot afford it.  People should not have to ration out their life-saving medications because they are not sure when they will be able to afford their next refill.  This path leads to serious medical complications and shorter life spans.  No one should be forced into that situation, but it happens.  Being able to directly help those people trapped in this cycle was my favorite part of this rotation.

Health Partners Free Clinic offers the best medication there is: hope.  Uninsured and underinsured patients are so used to hearing “no”, but here the answer is always “yes”.  This team is willing to tackle any problem to get the best care for their patients.  I have witnessed every staff member give 110% when it comes to patient care.  Problems are not solved by thinking outside of the box, but rather like there was no box to begin with.  This team accomplishes great things on a daily basis and I am thankful to have been a part of it for the month.

Before coming to Health Partners Free Clinic, I had no idea there were so many other organizations designed to help this patient population.  I have learned the importance of collaborating with other nonprofits to increase options for our patients.  We might not be able to provide a certain service, but another organization can.  As a future pharmacist, I think it would be beneficial to familiarize myself with local programs available in my community.  I want to adopt the Health Partners Free Clinic mentality of always providing options for my future patients.

This month has helped me define the kind of patient care I want provide and the kind of pharmacist I want to be.  Health care is a right, but it must be quality health care.  Patient care should not waver based on how many zeros a patient has at the end of their paycheck.  It has been truly amazing to work with people at Health Partners Free Clinic who understand and live this practice on a daily basis.  I will hold this experience close to my heart as I move forward in the profession of pharmacy.