On my first day as an intern, I met a patient who has stuck in my memory ever since. He was a middle-aged man in torn up jeans and a windbreaker stuffed with grocery bags, unsuitable clothing for the frigid January weather. While sifting through an overflowing bag that held the man’s prescriptions, the doctor explained that the man was illiterate and needed help managing all his medications. From my very first day at the clinic, I have been surprised to find that severe social and health disparities not only exist, but also that they have always been so close. I have learned many lessons in compassion and understanding through direct interaction with the underserved members of my community, but I have also learned a great deal about the process of administering health care. This process has become very apparent to me through my participation with the Tobacco Treatment Group.
I have learned a great deal from being an active member of the group, but perhaps the most important thing I have learned is that a patient’s health is dependent on every aspect of their life. For the majority of patients, quitting smoking is not the only challenge that they are facing. Patients grapple with depression, drug and alcohol abuse, family issues, financial issues, and many others. All these struggles accumulate to affect the patients’ health. I have learned that all the challenges these patients face must be identified and addressed in order to move the patient toward better health.
Another essential aspect to this process is the patient-provider relationship. In my shadowing experiences, I have learned that in order to provide the most comprehensive health care, the providers must work very hard to build a relationship with their patients. This has led me to conclude the most efficient delivery of health care occurs when the patients can trust their provider and when the provider knows enough about the patient to be able to consider all the aspects of the patients’ lives that contribute to their mental and physical well-being. My work at the clinic has exposed me to the many social barriers to health that exist for the members of Over-The-Rhine. It has also taught me a great deal about the best ways to overcome these barriers. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to Crossroad’s important mission.