I Didn't Learn This in a Classroom
Since serving a year with AmeriCorps is a service-learning experience to its very core (without the p), I have learned so much about the public health field that I couldn’t have learned in a classroom, which was my ultimate goal for the year. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my service:
1. Public Health organizations are usually small, but powerful.
I serve alongside 10 incredibly passionate and dedicated women at THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health. As the community outreach program for Wolfson Children’s Hospital, our goal is to keep the children of Jacksonville safe and healthy. Our Safe Kids team covers child passenger safety, water safety, safe sleep, and helmet safety. Our asthma team not only conducts bedside education at the hospital, they also coordinate care for high risk patients and teach hundreds of children a year about how to manage their asthma in schools. Our KidCare team helps families get through the process of enrolling their children in Medicaid or Florida KidCare. On top of all of that, we visit schools and other community organizations to teach children about their bodies and how to keep them healthy, how to properly wash their hands, and how to drive safely when they become teenagers. On a daily basis I am so impressed by how much THE PLAYERS Center accomplishes, and I feel so lucky to be able to contribute to each of these efforts.
2. Everything is about being connected and forming partnerships.
My first point makes it sound like we accomplish all of this ourselves, which is far from the truth. We form partnerships with other organizations, create referral systems, and share resources to improve the impact we can make on our community. One of our best partnerships, in my opinion, is with a mobile clinic associated with another hospital system. The collaboration between their staff and ours is incredible; if any of their pediatric patients do not have health insurance, their families get referred to us and we help determine what they are eligible for, and then enroll them in those programs.
I’ve come to realize that even poorly-attended health fairs are usually worthwhile because of their potential to bring together organizations with similar goals. Finding out about other community resources and forming these accidental partnerships helps all of us serve our community more holistically.
3. Nothing is isolated.
Jacksonville has a laundry list of fairly severe public health issues, and at the roots of each is the much bigger and more complicated problem of poverty. Jacksonville is teeming with non-profits whose missions are to alleviate these issues, and from what I’ve observed, they all recognize that these public health problems cannot be solved in isolation. So even though most individual organizations are small and each focuses on only one or a few of the consequences of poverty, their collaboration multiplies the strength of Jacksonville’s public health sector every day.
Over the remaining three months of my service term I intend to continue to absorb as much as I can to apply in my future as a physician. I am confident that everything I'm learning now about the community side of public health will help me better advocate for and understand my future patients.