The Best Laid Plans by Azariea Bonner-Harris

I had no idea what to expect when I entered this service term with the National Health Corps. A few of my close friends and mentors had suggested that I look into joining AmeriCorps for my gap year(s) between undergrad and PA school, but I had initially been disinterested. While I loved volunteering and community service, I was “ready” to join the workforce. However, as the Scottish proverb goes, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry; and nearly three months after graduation, I was on a one-way flight to Philadelphia with a position with NHC Philly. Once I arrived in Philadelphia and began my training for my position as a Patient Advocate in the Prescription Assistance Program at PDPH Health Center #2, I set an intention to purposely not create any goals or expectations for the next year. I told myself that I was merely here to learn as much as I could from my new colleagues and the communities that I had come to serve.

Starting as a Patient Advocate, I was anxious. I felt highly unqualified and unsure about how I was going to make a difference in this new role. I still had not come to fully realize that there are some situations in life that you cannot, and should not, plan. I could not have prepared myself for the breakdown that I had in my office when a new policy reduced the services that I could provide to my patients. I could not have pictured that I would be sitting with patients counseling them through stories of desperate insulin rationing, high medication prices, and program denials because of their citizenship. I could not have foreseen that my patients would become like an extension of my family- checking in on me, giving me life advice, gifting me with a baby cactus as a sign of appreciation because I am a notorious plant killer.

My service term with NHC has truly transformed me and has checked off all sorts of boxes that I didn't even know existed. Through professional development at our monthly meetings, I discovered population health, which is leading me to pursue a graduate certificate in addition to PA school. My experience at my host site has sparked a new interest in preventative care. The outside service projects have gotten me involved with advocacy for topics like healthcare access, community education & engagement, and immigration reform. Nearing the end of my service term, I am saddened to be closing this chapter of my life, but so eternally grateful for this experience because I feel closer to being the type of medical professional and community member that I aspire to be. So yes, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, but sometimes “you don't always need a plan… Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens.”  – Mandy Hale