Maya McKeown

"I joined NHC because it offered hands-on, experience working with diverse patient populations and many different health care professionals in an urban setting, opportunities for continued professional development through training and seminars, and the chance to completely immerse myself in a new city and unique communities."

Hometown:
Naperville, IL

Educational Background:
BS in Bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh

Host Site:
Philadelphia Department of Public Health - Health Center 5

Why did you join NHC?
I joined NHC because it offered hands-on, experience working with diverse patient populations and many different health care professionals in an urban setting, opportunities for continued professional development through training and seminars, and the chance to completely immerse myself in a new city and unique communities. In the next year, I hope these attributes will allow me to discover more about myself and strengthen my passion for healthcare and service.

What are your plans after AmeriCorps service?
I am currently applying to medical school and interested in a career in primary care.

Tell us about an employment, service, or research experience that was important to you.
I spent 5 weeks volunteering at a health clinic in Grassy Park, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. My time there was the most eye-opening, immersive experience of my life. Despite limited funding, resources (i.e. toilet paper rations), and only one doctor, the clinic saw hundreds of patients per day. Due to the long wait, most trekked for miles, usually when symptoms were at their worst. Yet, the people of Grassy Park were so thankful for what they had, and generous in return. Each day at tea time, staff sang a welcome song to patients. Some days we’d give free blood pressure screenings at a nearby church. Volunteers brought food in for children waiting at the clinic. What they may have lacked in basic needs was countered with a diverse, selfless culture, and rich spirituality. Visiting at corner stores and helping at the soup kitchen, I became part of this community and reflected on the vast differences between life in our two countries, healthcare included. At the clinic, I appreciated the opportunities to educate patients, such as suggesting alternatives to popular sugary snacks, in attempt to give them the tools to take charge of their health. I realized I loved getting to personally know patients inside and outside of the clinic, and serving as an advocate, educator, and friend in the community. This transformative experience is a huge reason for my interest in community-focused healthcare. I hope to become part of the communities I work with during my time in Philadelphia, as I did in South Africa.

What first sparked your interest in community service?
With a Catholic school upbringing, I have always understood the importance of service and appreciated the opportunities to gain a new perspective from different communities. Since my sister is a cancer survivor, the oncology community is very dear to my family; I greatly enjoyed volunteering at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center throughout my time at Pitt. My experience in South Africa sparked much introspection and I realized my passion for community-based care and advocacy. In my service term at NHC, I hope to build off these interests and experiences to positively impact the patients and families I'll interact with.

What about Philadelphia excites you the most?
The history! I lived in Boston last summer and LOVED seeing different sites that were pivotal to our American history, so I'm eager to experience more in Philadelphia. I'm not exactly sure if Reading Terminal Market counts as "history," but I'm pretty excited to enjoy that more too!

What’s your favorite food?
My favorite food is homemade ravioli that my extended family and I prepare at "Ravioli Day" (the greatest adopted holiday) and eat on Christmas.