Hindsight is 2020: Looking Back on Two Years of Service

Posted on: June 21, 2022Philadelphia
the exterior of health center two
My host site, Health Center 2, in South Philly

I spent my two gap years between college and medical school dedicated to service through AmeriCorps. My second year was spent as a Patient Advocate at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Health Center 2 in South Philadelphia. In this role, I ran the Patient Assistance Program (PAP) office to provide access to medications for uninsured, underinsured, and undocumented patients. My responsibilities included screening patients for health concerns and eligibility, completing and submitting patient applications for medication assistance programs, and coordinating all logistical aspects of the program (follow-up with pharmaceutical companies, refill requests, processing and storing medication, ensuring inventory is stocked, patient outreach, etc.). 

In this position, I honed my skills in active listening, outreach, and patient engagement to help underserved patients meet basic needs while becoming well-versed in the current (broken) system of health insurance. By seeing what the health and insurance systems look like on the ground in the community, I gained invaluable knowledge which will ultimately make me a better physician and advocate. These experiences caused me to recognize the power in helping patients navigate a system not built to serve them, thereby illuminating the immense value of building human connection through direct service. I envision a future where instead of jumping through hoops, insurance barriers, and fee assistance programs, people will be guaranteed access to high-quality health care, never again putting the fear of the cost of medical treatment before their health. I am taking steps towards realizing this dream by pursuing an MD/MPH in primary care and health policy. In this way, I can fulfill my passion for direct service while fiercely advocating for a system that values human life over profit.

six smiling service members sitting in a baseball stadium
Enjoying a Phillies game with my fellow service members!

As I look back on two years of AmeriCorps service, I am filled with an intense sense of pride for the 3,400 hours I have volunteered to the communities I have been a part of. I am also anxious to take the lessons I learned from my time in service to my own practice as a provider. Here are just a few. (1) All the long days and administrative burdens will all be worth it when you help just one patient get a life-saving medicine. (2) Long and stressful applications will yield success and appreciation when you lift up your service and highlight your dedication. (3) Apply for EBT as soon as possible, and look into all the great benefits you can get with it! (4) Don’t limit yourself to your job description and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and push some buttons. That is the only way things will change. (5) Lastly, enjoy the ride! You will meet some amazing friends that makes it all worth it. 


About the Author:

Colette Cambey

Pronouns:  she/her

Host Site: Philadelphia Department of Public Health: Health Center 2

Position Title: Patient Advocate

Where are you from?  Hillsborough, NC

Why did you decide to join NHC? I’m thrilled to be entering a position where I can use my skills in active listening, outreach, and patient engagement to connect uninsured and underinsured patients to critical patient assistance programs.