Looking back on my service term, with only 218 hours left (but who’s counting?), I am grateful for the opportunity to have served alongside fellow National Health Corps (NHC) Chicago members and everyone at the Illinois Eye Institute at Princeton Elementary (IEI). When I envisioned my dream post-grad life, it certainly didn’t include moving to Chicago and living off of food stamps, but I am so lucky it did. As an NHC Chicago member, I have not only realized the difficulties in navigating social benefits, but I have also met amazing like-minded people and found my new favorite city.
Prior to my service term with NHC Chicago at IEI, I had never given much thought to the importance and challenges associated with eye health as I have been fortunate enough to have great uncorrected vision and healthy eyes. As a result, I hadn’t realized the impact that vision has in someone’s daily life. However, through my experience with IEI, I have learned about the importance of eye health, and importantly, the unequal access to affordable eye health care in Chicago. IEI also opened my eyes to the benefits of preventative care; specifically, with eye diseases such as glaucoma, which can be monitored to prevent further damage.
In addition to learning more about prevention of eye diseases, throughout the year, NHC Chicago has come together for monthly in-service days where we hear from public health professionals in Chicago. Each speaker brought a new angle on public health, focused on prevention and the interaction with social determinants of health. Through hearing different public health professionals share their passion for public health, I also solidified my interest in mental health. Hearing speakers like Gabriela Zapata Alma speak about co-occurring mental health disorders and Myra Rodriguez facilitating an amazing mental first aid training, I have gained more insight into my future as a public health professional.
Prior to National Health Corps Chicago, I believed I wanted to receive my Master of Public Health in Epidemiology and study the impact of social determinants on health globally. However, following my experience of serving in South Side Chicago – a city with so much inequality – and hearing the many public health professionals speak at our in-service days, I have realized the importance of tackling social determinants within Chicago specifically. Chicago is an amazing city with countless opportunities, however, these opportunities are simply not equally accessible. Moving forward, as I study for my Master of Public Health at the University of Illinois Chicago, I will rely heavily on the training and experiences I received through NHC Chicago.
As my service term comes to an end, I am grateful that my public health background has been expanded and I am so excited to see how my fellow NHC Chicago members (and myself!) work to change the world.
This blog post was written by 2018-19 NHC Chicago member Kerri Goldstein.
Kerri is a Patient Navigator at Illinois Eye Institute at Princeton Vision Clinic.