“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”

I have always dabbled in community service, but when I stepped off the plane at the Philadelphia International Airport, after an anxiety-filled but exciting 3,000 mile plane ride, service was about to become central to my daily life.  As rewarding as a day of service can be, participating in an AmeriCorps service term, even after only two months, has positively surpassed my previous experiences with service.  A broad spectrum of emotions and a sense of exhilaration bubbled up inside of me as I joined this cohort of my fellow AmeriCorps members to engage in a year of service.  The root of these emotions involves two components: our responsibilities and patients at our host sites and our Corps of Philadelphia Health Corps members.

My personal duty as a Patient Advocate at one of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s city health centers has served as an eye-opening experience into the field of health care.  The complexities of the system can not be over-emphasized, mostly based on the lack of transparencies from one organization to the next.  As an advocate, I aid in dissipating fear and  tension in the lives of the patients at the health center, desperate for help with their medications.  Imagine you are handed a vital prescription for an inhaler for your COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), but you have no insurance.  The cost of a single inhaler of Advair is a baffling $250.  The patient assistance programs at the health centers are designed to help patients navigate the pharmaceutical world and to increase their access to and knowledge of their options so they can better maintain their health.  With patience, persistence and compassion, I have learned that we can help to support one another to live with more ease and stability.  The gratitude the patients express once their medications are in their hands makes the obscure experience worthwhile.  This is only one example of the many duties my peers and I participate in during our service. 

Additionally, our Corps’ members already have woven an indestructible web of community.  The sense of support and family from this organization has kept me rooted.  From the outside service work to our monthly meetings, I have appreciated coming together with this unique group of individuals that keep me on my toes.  As Dr. Seuss said, “you’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”  The engagement, curiosity, and enthusiasm throughout the group has been the spark to growth and new thoughts.  I feel fortunate to have a community to relate on our passions but even more fortunate to explore our differences.

This post was written by PHC member Ali Kanat.
Ali serves at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health - Ambulatory Health Services as a Patient Assistance Program Advocate.