Running Alongside Sun River Health

Posted on: February 12, 2021New York

I laced up my running spikes and stepped to the starting line for one of the most important races of my career. I had one goal in mind: to break Susquehanna University’s women’s 10,000-meter record. Bang! The starter’s gun cracked, and I took off alongside my toughest competitors. On lap 15 of 25, my chest began to pound and a burning sensation filled my lungs. Negative thoughts crept into my mind: Why not quit? If I slow down, the pain will end. At that moment it was clear why I became a runner: the thrill of a race, the ability to push myself to new limits, and the satisfaction of seeing my hard work yield success. My teammates’ cheers fueled my legs, and I gritted my teeth, dug my spikes in, and surged forward with tremendous resolve. I did break the record that day, but more importantly, I realized that I possessed the tools needed to pursue a challenging career in medicine.  


In August 2016, I began pursuing a degree in Neuroscience and Biochemistry at Susquehanna University. As I left my advisor’s office one day, I saw a poster advertising a hospital internship and immediately applied. As I worked with healthcare professionals in various departments, the role each member of the team plays in ensuring the best patient outcome became clear. Through observing emergency room physicians and nurses partnering to save a stroke patient, I began to see the parallels between a healthcare team and my experiences on a track team. As I watched hospital staff console patients during losses and push them toward health victories, I realized the power of individuals coming together to achieve common goals. I completed my internship knowing that I wanted a career that would allow me to be a member of a medical team. 


In addition to shadowing medical teams, I’ve sought out volunteer experiences and mentorships that have allowed me to grasp the community outreach aspects of medicine. Dr. Donato, a physician who mentored me during my career exploration, made certain that I understood the importance of service. He told me, “The greatest accomplishments you’re going to achieve in medicine aren’t tangible; but rather the positive impact you can make on an individual’s life and the community.” As my interest in medicine solidified, I have carried his words with me in hope to impact both my future patients and the community. In the interest of experiencing outreach to the underserved and being in a team atmosphere, I am doing just this as a National Health Corps member serving at Sun River Health to improve care quality and access for those in need. Providing service in this way means building relationships and the community.  


Thus far in my service, I have been assisting with the Poughkeepsie Mothers Project, the Medication-Assisted Treatment program (MAT), COVID-19 vaccination events, and community outreach. The Poughkeepsie Mothers Project (PMP), founded by Kay Bishop, provides holistic and integrative women’s health care in the context of a community health center assisting a disenfranchised and immigrant population. The Poughkeepsie Mothers Project runs and organizes various holistic programs including; the Prenatal Education, a Mother's Support Group, the Expressive Art Program, the Peer Education Program, Women's Health Packages, and the Nutrition Program. Specifically, I have been working on the nutrition program where I have been occupied on addressing, researching, and analyzing the food availability, access, and utilization in Poughkeepsie, NY. I have been collaborating with a team to put together community resources for women while also serving as a prenatal and postpartum Doula. In addition to the PMP, I have had the opportunity to be a part of the MAT team, assist with COVID-19 vaccination events, shadow patient navigators, representatives, and providers, and engage in community outreach work.  


These experiences have shown the importance of a cohesive team working to ensure exceptional patient-centered care. At Sun River Health, we work together to meet patients where they are at. Similar to my experience being on a track team, we all continually support each other—we cry together, celebrate together, and tackle adversity together.  On days where I felt overwhelmed or down, I could always count on a team member to lift me up. It is humbling to be a part of an organization that aims to address some of the various social determinants of health, and I am excited to apply everything that I learn from serving with this organization to when I become a physician. I look forward to forging meaningful relationships with the individuals in the community as I continue my service.  


Being a National Health Corps member has taught me compassion while being a team member has taught me collaboration and accountability; all skills I can bring to the medical profession. Breaking a record is a process involving failures, setbacks, and factors outside any one person’s control. Whether the challenge is a long day at a vaccination event or figuring out the needs to reach an underserved population, I know I have the skills to persevere. Medicine is the ultimate 10,000-meter race that NHC is training me for, and I am ready to lace up my spikes, step to the starting line, and launch myself into new challenges. 

Erin Reese serves in Poughkeepsie, NY with the Poughkeepsie Family Partnership. 

Host Site

29 North Hamilton Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
29 North Hamilton Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601