Friday, December 15, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #44: Grace Thomas

The Crossroad building in OTR stands at the corner of East Liberty and Vine, its tall, blue frame hard to miss. As I walk to the front door, I wave at all the folks who congregate outside the parking lot; they smile at me and offer greetings in response. I hurry up the stairs and clip my name tag, complete with an utterly stunning photo of myself, in between the buttons of my navy Crossroad polo. With my team’s notebook in hand, I charge into the office, ready to begin another successful shift.

While scheduling referral appointments for the patients at our office, I have realized the beauty of my role as a Volunteer Intern. In reality, few patients know about the Volunteer Internship Program in its entirety. Thus, when you call a patient and help him or her to schedule an appointment, you do not do it to maintain a certain ​status, nor do you do it to receive praise and credit. Working with a patient as a VIP gives you the ​honor of having but a small role in one person’s healthcare journey. To know that you have made it easier for a stranger to get to his or her appointment, whether that was by scheduling the appointment or transportation, is a reward within itself.

Many of the VIPs, myself included, plan to continue on to professions within the health field, including medicine, physical therapy, public health etc. Working as a Volunteer Intern at Crossroad Health Center allows us students to be reminded of what is at the ​heart of such occupations: the persistent and compassionate pursuit of a healthy world.

                                                                                                              -- Grace Thomas

Monday, December 4, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #43: Sachika Singh

From my life experiences, I have become so passionate about community health. When I applied to this program, I wrote about a harrowing experience at a hospital in India when I was in second grade. My dad was a family physician in Portsmouth, Ohio, so a lot of my childhood was shaped by my experiences in his office. I was accustomed to stuffy waiting rooms and the occasional distressed patient but for the most part, I was inspired by the patterns I saw in my dad’s patients; regardless of their mood in the waiting room, they always left with a smile. That’s what I believed medicine was: making people happy and solving small band-aid problems. To me, this was impactful and important.

In India, I saw that health was much more complex can that. The hospital was unbelievably underserved; waiting rooms were overcrowded and patients were often left begging for medical attention. The quality of life for these people was drastically different from what I saw in my dad’s office; I realized from this experience that medicine and public health are often very lacking in many communities. As I grew up, I learned more about the health disparities that existed in my community. I was shocked to learn that Portsmouth -- a quaint, small town in Southeast Ohio -- was nationally known as “the pill mill of America” because of its severe drug addiction problem. At later shadowing experiences when I was older, I realized how uninformed most of the patients there were; they struggled to afford their medications. were often underinsured or not insured, and were unable to advocate for themselves in their government due to lack of information and cultural beliefs. The more I learned about my community, the more I realized that this issue of lack of access to healthcare was not a “third world country” issue, but rather a pervasive issue that is common in communities worldwide -- even in a first world, superpower country like mine. Furthermore, I came to see how the systems in place sustained societal barriers that disadvantaged patients and community members in Portsmouth from improving their health and life changes.

As an intern at Crossroad, I have the opportunity to help patients get better access to healthcare. Working in OTR, the patient population is entirely different from that of Portsmouth’s, but I’ve found that the general idea is similar. Patients here, also, are disadvantaged by the systems in place and struggle to get access to basic health resources. Also similar to the patients in Portsmouth, they truly do want to improve their health. They are not lazy or impassioned; most of them have families that they work very hard to support and life -- whether that’s a cultural barrier or lack of transportation, insurance, or access to a phone -- often gets in the way of their health. Healthcare is a human right and these patients deserve help getting connected to the resources they need. As an intern, I get to be a part of this support network. At Crossroad, almost every day is a victory for our patients’ quality of health. Sometimes, the process goes so smoothly: appointments are scheduled, patients attend them, and their health improves. Other days, they require much more labor and patience; sometimes we’re on the phone for hours trying to find a provider who will accept our patient’s insurance -- and we aren’t always successful. Once, the only liver scan I was able to find for a patient diagnosed with hepatitis C was months out; this day, I remember being extremely frustrated with the barriers that our patients constantly face in our community. In these moments, I remind myself that there is still so much awareness to raise, research to complete, and policy to advocate for in the fight to improve community health. Being a part of Crossroad and having the rewarding experience of interacting with the patients, who are always grateful and kind, reminds me to keep working and studying so I can use my education to improve health. 

                                                                                           -- Sachika Singh

Friday, December 1, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #42: Jen Stoker

Receiving treatment for medical problems is supposed to be a relief for the person suffering, a weight lifted off their shoulders. However, for many patients, being treated for an ailment is a huge burden: financially, emotionally, or otherwise. I, like many others, have seen firsthand how the healthcare system favors those who are financially well off, even though medical treatment is a necessity for everyone. As a VIP, our main job is schedule referral appointments for patients and to attempt to breakdown barriers that stand in their way of receiving medical care. When I call a patient to help them schedule an appointment, it is incredibly frustrating to hear that they are unable to attend a necessary appointment due to lack of transportation, large medical expenses, or the inability to get time off work. The goal of the VIP’s is to try to eliminate some of the barriers that patients face. Although we can never exactly understand what each patient is going though, coming in each week with a positive attitude and the intention to better someone’s day can truly make a difference. 

Health is a priority in a person’s life. Being in good health can affect every aspect of who you are. One of my first experiences truly feeling a connection to a patient at Crossroads was during the first few weeks when I had the opportunity to shadow Dr. Roberts. This patient was having health issues that no doctor had been able to diagnose. I understood the frustration they were experiencing, as I have had chronic health problems over the years that stumped many doctors. Dr. Roberts took the time to truly listen and try to better understand what the patient was going through. That is one of the best things about spending time at Crossroads; everyone who works there is patient, kind, and supportive of one another. It has been a great place to intern while trying to figure out what career path I should follow. Many of my peers who participate in the Volunteer Internship Program are in a pre-med program and hope to one day become doctors or nurses. Unfortunately, I realized freshmen year of college that I could not pursue these careers since even the mention of blood or bones in anatomy class made me queasy. I am currently studying Health Services Administration, but being a VIP has made me realize that my true passion is working directly with patients. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to work at such a patient-centered place, and I am truly inspired by the work each of the Crossroad’s staff members are doing every day.

                                                                                                                                       -- Jen Stoker 

#theVIPExperience Post #41: McKenzie Stauffer

I became part of the VIP family starting the spring rotation of 2017. I came into this experience with an excitement for serving my community that I held so dear, and having an opportunity to work in the field I love. I wasn’t sure where this journey with Crossroad was going to take me, but I can truly say it has been one of the best experiences I have ever had. I have loved having the chance to work with patients to help make their healthcare experience the easiest and smoothest possible. Being able to have the chance to experience the health care system, in a different experience than just shadowing has only strengthened my passion to pursue a career in medicine.

I started my first rotation shadowing Dr. Borchers at the West location. I had a remarkable experience shadowing her, and watching her interact with her patients and their families. It was an eye-opening experience to see how she interacted versus what I knew as a normal interaction with my primary care physician. I believe that is because of the community we live in, and I think all the patients here are lucky to have her and all the other providers giving care at Crossroad Health Center. While I don’t know most of the other providers throughout the Crossroad community, I believe that they are all as passionate about helping this community as Dr. Borchers is.

After my shadowing experience, while I could now see how amazing this organization is, I wasn’t exactly sure of how I fit in, and how my role would be beneficial to the patients. It wasn’t until the middle of my first rotation when I was on my own working on referrals, and I had a patient so overwhelmed with gratitude for what we do as VIP’s, that it truly hit me how important this position is. Ever since then, I have not taken for granted the opportunity that I have with this organization to help the community of Greater Cincinnati, even if it is as simple as scheduling a referral. I had to realize that while it may be easy for me to schedule something like this, it may be very difficult for others.

I am very thankful for the staff and other VIP’s throughout my entire experience, as I have been able to ask them for help, and to learn as much as I can to get the most out of the experience, and to best help the patients. My college experience would not have been the same without Crossroad and the community we serve. Now that I am in my second rotation, I am a referral team leader, and I feel very privileged to have the chance to be the person that others come to for help, and I can provide my help to make someone else’s experience as a VIP better.

                                                                                                          -- McKenzie Stauffer

Friday, November 24, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #40: Nina Marich

When I was in 8th grade, my grandpa passed away after suffering for 4 years with Alzheimer's disease. After spending a big bulk of my childhood visiting him in different nursing homes and hospitals, I thought becoming a doctor might be a possible career path for my future. I enrolled in a MedTrack program at my high school, and took rigorous science and math courses with extra electives included. When I took bioethics, we briefly covered healthcare and the challenges undeserved communities face in getting basic healthcare. Once the class was over, that did not stop my researching in this area and my passion to know more about this and what can be changed to fix it. As a freshman in college, one of my biology professors at Xavier University posted the application for Crossroad’s Volunteer Internship in the Facebook page. After looking over the mission statement of a VIP and what the job does, I thought this would be an incredible opportunity to work in a clinic specifically designed to help patients facing these challenges. 

One of the reasons why I was so happy to be a volunteer intern was because of the type of community Crossroad creates within its staff, its roots in faith, and its mission statement to show empathy, not sympathy to our patients. I believe that a strong connection with staff leads to a better experience for the patients. When I shadowed Dr. Haas before I started working on referrals, I saw how the entire staff at Crossroad is a community within itself. They all work great together, respect each other, and there is always someone there willing to help if someone needs it. My shift started at 8AM, so I was able to be a part of the morning huddle, and I was moved that the staff prayed together before they started their day. Their prayers were genuine and asked God to work through them to be able to help their patients in the best they can, whether it be mentally, physically, or spiritually. I love that there is faith-centered approach to their healthcare and they reach out to patients suffering beyond physical problems, and create meetings that will assist them in other ways. 

I am currently in my second rotation at Crossroad in OTR, and I have already learned so much more about the communities we serve, and that their challenges do not stop once they have insurance coverage. My first rotation I did referrals for our adult patients and there was never a day that I was able to schedule an appointment at the first location I called because of the limitations of where the patient's insurance was accepted. Even with that, there is also a limitation as to how far away the hospital is and if the patient can get there. This internship is a necessity for this clinic because it is designed to help our patients break these barriers that could be the reason why they never get to receive the further healthcare they need for a healthier life. I love being able to be an active part in this side of healthcare, and find ways to provide transportation, directions, and insurance coverage, to name a few, and make it easy and accessible for our patients to receive the best care possible outside of Crossroad Health Center. 

                                                                                                       -- Nina Marich

#theVIPExperience Post #39: Sierra Shockley

I began my journey with Crossroad Health Center during the Summer of 2017 and I was not aware at all how much growth it would cause me to endure. I have always had a drive for helping others especially in the realm of health care and Crossroad did nothing but ensure me that I am on the right path.

Starting at Crossroad over the summer I shadowed Dr. VanMilligan. Seeing her work with her patients was truly amazing. She continuously cares for her patients needs and gives them the best option for them to be their healthiest self. She also made sure that I wasn’t only learning by observation but also took the time out to teach me practices that she conducts to best serve her patients every day. She truly inspired me to continue my future career in healthcare.

Beginning as a VIP, my biggest savior was Lily. She was extremely helpful in all situations when it came to referrals, documentation and scheduling. Being apart of the VIP’s really has shown how much of a family we truly are. VIP’s make sure that everyone is held accountable and know the protocols for referring and documenting patients' records to ensure that there isn’t any confusion within and between offices.

The one aspect that truly brings joy to my heart at Crossroad is the genuine happiness that exudes from every person the minute they walk through the door.  Crossroad has taught me many lessons and I am ecstatic to see what lessons lie as my last rotation approaches. This internship has truly taught me what it means to work together for a purpose that is bigger than myself and I could not be more grateful for that.

                                                                                                               -- Sierra Shockley

Friday, November 17, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #38: Colleen Guffey

There is a common stereotype of what going to a hospital or doctor’s office should be like… it should be like Grey’s Anatomy.  This stereotype is far from true especially for the communities such as the one that Crossroad Health Center reaches out too.  I shadowed Dr. Delaat and Valerie Smith-MBake (RN) at the West location in the pediatrics unit.  One of the most eye opening cases that I was able to witness was a patient that spoke no English; we had to call a translator to translate everything that was being said.  It was a challenging process, time-consuming, and frustrating but the providers at Crossroad are persistent, patient, and willing to jump through different barriers to be able to serve their patients.  Crossroad reaches out to patients of all ages. I have seen a newborn that are barely a week old to patients as old as seventy to eighty. 
When I heard about Crossroad internship I was super excited about getting the internship but I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.  I had shadowed a breast surgeon previous to shadowing Dr. Delaat and the difference between the two were extremely different.  Shadowing Dr. Delaat opened my eyes to the type of children that are brought to these low income health centers and made me want to potentially work with children when I complete my education.  Starting the internship work at Crossroad after shadowing was not what I expected the internship to be like.  It wasn’t difficult work, but the work that was required needs to be done proficiently and in a timely matter.  The work that is required is to call patients that the provider has referred to see specialist at a different location and see if they need help scheduling their appointment.  From that point, it is our job to call the office and and schedule the time, location, and date for the appointment then check back with the patient.  There are often many obstacles that the patient faces: transportation, quickness of appointment dates, insurance acceptance, being able to reach the scheduler, and calling an office that will accept referrals outside of their practice.  This isn’t always the easiest task and often requires contacting the patients multiple times. But it is nonetheless rewarding.

The most rewarding aspect of this internship is the in-person referrals.  In this case, you see the patients and the amount of pain that they are in.  At this point there is nothing else WE can do for them, but we can lift some of the burden and anxiety of scheduling an appointment for them.  It is a very rewarding and eye-opening internship that allows pre-medicine students like me to look at a different type of health care system.  If you have the opportunity to apply to this internship, you totally should.  Not just for the volunteer hours and experience, but to express empathy to this type of community and to understand the different challenges they face when it comes to healthcare and insurance.  

                                                                                                                -- Colleen Guffey