When I say that Crossroad Health Center (Crossroad) is filled with the most hard-working, selfless, and caring doctors I have ever met, I am not exaggerating. Everyone who works at Crossroad is there purely to help people; being paid is not the purpose. I first applied to the Crossroad Volunteer Internship Program (CVIP) because I dream of opening my own clinic in another country one day. I thought that working at a clinic that helps the underserved in my own community would be a great way to see and experience what it would be like. I correctly assumed that I would gain an immense amount of knowledge, but I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to actually help people as only a college student.
At Crossroad, I make referral calls, shadow and assist doctors, and work in a pre-visit planning room. However, my main focus and passion at Crossroad is facilitating a tobacco treatment support group. Every Monday at 3:30, a group of people from all walks of life gather on the second floor of the clinic with one shared goal: to quit smoking. Many of the patients I meet in the group have been through so much in their lives – violence, incarceration, prostitution, alcoholism, drug addictions. They have worked tirelessly to free themselves of those chains and they come to the support group to fix one last thing in their lives. Quitting smoking is no easy feat. Nicotine is more addictive than crack, and several ex-crack users in the group can attest to that. It is so inspiring to even be in the presence of these people who have overcame so much, let alone have the opportunity to help them better their lives further.
Up until working with the Tobacco Treatment Group, I knew that smoking was not good, but I had no idea of the extent it can hinder life. Just looking around the circle, one can observe the terrible effects it can have on a man or a woman. The heavier smokers are out of breath from just talking, their voices are raspy, one is missing limbs because of amputations due to lack of circulation, younger patients look twenty years older, and almost all are poor and their addiction forces them to fork over six dollars whenever they need a new pack.
As the facilitator, I have become a cheerleader, a shoulder to cry on, a resource, and even a friend to many of the regular group members. It is heartbreaking to witness the frustration and despair that frequents our discussions, due to inability to quit. The doctor that comes to the group and I share methods to quit, stress management strategies, craving management, medications, tips, tools, and hope. Working at Crossroad has been the single most rewarding experience I have had in Cincinnati because I have actually been able to make a difference, all the while learning so much about health, life, and dedication. Group members that have quit since I began facilitating the group have already reported how much better they feel and how much their quality of life has improved. Health and happiness are the top two things that I want to spread in the world, and CVIP has given me the opportunity to do just that.