What Does Service Mean to You?

Before beginning my term as a National Health Corps Pittsburgh member, I was often asked, “So, what exactly are you doing this year?” While the details of the daily activities as a Patient Navigator remained cloudy, I felt confident describing my 10 and half month engagement with National Health Corps as a “service year.” However, throughout the first half of this program, I have realized that working in a health related profession is a life-long continuation of a “service year”. I have observed this in all aspects of my experience, from the daily work that I do at the Lawrenceville Family Health Center to my community volunteer projects and health education opportunities. I am continuously surrounded by a community of people that have made a commitment to serving others

Civic engagement is at the root of the guiding AmeriCorps principles, and I see this exemplified in nearly every aspect of my day-to-day life as a Patient Navigator at Lawrenceville Family Health Center. However, I wanted to to explore the meaning of civic engagement outside of the clinic by volunteering at Our Clubhouse, a local organization that provides free emotional and social support to their members, residents of western Pennsylvania who have been directly or indirectly impacted by cancer. They offer a variety of classes that range from gentle exercise to healthy cooking to creative expression workshops. Sessions are taught by skilled community members who volunteer their time in order to better the lives of others. Because these instructors share knowledge and provide services, members of the organization can take the information and incorporate it into their own lives.

Our Clubhouse members are also part of the vital volunteer network that support it. Despite the numerous health challenges that some of the members may be facing, they are deeply engaged with all aspects of the organization and are constantly putting the needs of others before their own. There is a atmosphere of community and warmth that is always present. Some might say that it is the cozy library or the comfortable couches or the weekly yoga classes, but I think it is the genuine kindness and compassion that is shown to to all who walk through the Our Clubhouse doors.

A commitment to a year of serving in a new city has provided an opportunity for growth and introspection and has allowed me to dive deeper to discover what civic engagement means to me. It’s a chance to share time, skills, and experiences with community members and to constantly challenge your own viewpoint. I try to embrace this definition each day through my interaction with patients in the clinic and with members of Our Clubhouse.


This post was written by NPHC member Brenna Cockburn.

Brenna serves at UPMC St. Margaret Lawrenceville Family Health Center as a Patient Navigator.