This blog post goes out to those considering the National Health Corps, those who wonder what happens after NHC and anyone who is genuinely interested about the skills and knowledge that one gains from being a part of a program that prepares its members to be innovative public health leaders and active members of society. As my service term comes to a close in just two short months, I have finally taken some time to process my experience and recognize the impact that NHC and my host site, Nationalities Service Center, has had on my personal and professional growth within the field of public health.
Prior to joining NHC Philly, I was sure that I wanted to pursue a degree in public health after my service term, but I was unsure of what realm within the field that I was passionate about. I had strong interpersonal skills and some hands-on public health learning experiences under my belt, but I wanted to hone in on some of my skills and work more closely with marginalized populations in Philadelphia, while simultaneously learning more about the ins and outs of the healthcare system in the US. The National Health Corps not only prepared me for furthering my public health education, but challenged me to grow and develop skills in which I didn’t know I had, both in a professional and personal setting.
Our learning began on day one, during Pre-Service Orientation (PSO), and has continued throughout the entirety of the service term. During PSO we had several guest speakers, including a physician and professor from Thomas Jefferson University, Dr. James Plumb, who spoke to us about the demographics of the Philadelphia area, the segregation of certain neighborhoods, and how the determinants of health such as race, class and gender all affect one’s access to and quality of healthcare. We had two insurance specialists from various health centers around the city give us an in depth presentation on Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, and we also had representatives from a nonprofit that assisted clients with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program applications teach us about the application process itself. It was only the first week and I had gained a wealth of knowledge and was energized to begin my term of service.
Moving on to service at my host site, Nationalities Service Center, a resettlement agency for refugees and immigrants in the Philadelphia area, which, those who read my last blog (*not so shameless plug*) know, is always busy and bustling with clients from various countries speaking a multitude of languages. Because of the nature of the organization itself and the work that we on the health team do for our clients, I was very much thrust into a high stress environment from day one. When you have two clients in the lobby asking for you, multiple specialty appointments to be made for clients, and two client escorts scheduled back to back, you learn to roll with the punches and think fast on your feet. My service pushed me to become more of a critical thinker and to develop ways to handle myself under pressure. I learned to advocate for my clients and to encourage myself and health providers to give clients the services that they deserve, regardless of their native country or language. I learned more about healthcare access, provision, insurance, etc., which will continue to be useful in my personal and professional life.
Because of my experiences with the National Health Corps Philadelphia and Nationalities Service Center, I have decided to stay in the area and pursue my Masters in Public Health at Thomas Jefferson University, with a focus on community health. I am hoping to continue my work with immigrant and refugee health and without my year of service through NHC Philly I would not have developed the passion or the drive to pursue a career in public health that I have today. So, thanks, NHC Philly, it’s been a good run. I encourage any and all who are interested in a year of service and a health-related career to apply for this program. You will not be disappointed!