Monday, May 15, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #16: Haley Beavers

My journey as a VIP has spanned over half my Xavier career, the half that has been arguably the most transformative two years of my life. I first learned about the internship program during my sophomore year when Drs. Schubert came to speak on “global health in our backyard” at Xavier University. That year, I was a Winter-Brueggeman Fellow and thick in the weeds of year-long research project centered on universal healthcare. A few weeks before I was to head off to Costa Rica to complete the international capstone of the fellowship, I saw that the Pre-Med Society was sponsoring this talk that pertained not only to the focus of my fellowship, but also struck a chord in my heart. I still remember feeling so excited when I heard this incredible clinic offered an internship opportunity for students. There haven’t been many moments in my life where I felt absolutely sure about something, but I knew during that presentation that I was going to apply for this internship.

After I applied and well into my first rotation, I was also fortunate enough to be involved in a program through Xavier’s Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice called Dorothy Day Immersions (DDI). People who know me well enough will chuckle when they read this, as it probably seems like, when given an inch, I’ll take a mile and talk about DDI. However, I will argue that I cannot isolate the two experiences and the impact they have had on me over the past two years. Through DDI, we explore the intersection of faith and justice and spend a week of winter break on trips diving deeper into justice-related issues across the country. DDI took me to New York City in 2016 and New Orleans in 2017. On both trips, we learned about amazing community organizations that work with the marginalized in order to promote peace and justice within their own communities and in the world at-large. My heart always beamed with joy and purpose when I thought about the mission and vision of Crossroad and our internship program during my two trips. While working with incredible community activists and organizers in NYC and NOLA, I knew that I would return home to Crossroad Health Center, even more on fire to work for and with our patients. Whether or not VIPs realize it, by participating in the program and engaging with the patient population at Crossroad, they build in themselves a desire and drive to seek justice and work for the marginalized. These are the building blocks of a better future.  
Looking back on my past five rotations as a VIP, I cannot begin to describe the amount of growth I have experienced as a result of this program. Not all of it has been easy, and, in fact, I would say that it has been immensely difficult most of the time. I’ve experienced my fair share of failed attempts to schedule a referral, painful encounters with patients who, through the pain, continually inspire me with their courage and vulnerability, and general hiccups along the way. Working with the patients of this clinic, Crossroad staff, and my fellow VIPs has been an absolute honor and a privilege, and my goodbye to this program will not be an easy one for me to say. 

-- Haley Beavers

Monday, May 1, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #15: "How Crossroad Changed My Life" by Gabby Truitt

Crossroads Health Center has literally changed my life. 

I know this sounds cliche but stick with me here. If you’ve read the previous CVIP blog posts then you understand what our job entails. You also understand the population we work with. So, I won’t go into those details. What I will share with you, however, is how these two things have impacted my future.

I’ve known I wanted to be a doctor since (about) freshmen year of high school. Science has always been my favorite subject and I enjoy helping others. The idea of working with underserved populations, however, never crossed my mind. That is, until I started shadowing in the University of Cincinnati Emergency Department.

The difference between this shadowing experience and my Crossroads experience is that, after leaving my shadowing shift in the ER, I felt as though I did not want to work with patients on Medicaid. The patients seemed rude, uncooperative, and often times like they just wanted needed pain medications. What I didn’t take into take into account when processing these encounters, was that these patients were in (what they felt was) an emergency situation (even if it wasn’t always a “true medical emergency). They had the same stressors at home as our patients at Crossroads (I’ll get into those soon) do but they had the added stress of feeling incredibly sick.

Now, let’s fast forward to my time at Crossroads.

During the training process, it was explained very clearly what a day may look like for our patients. Many of them have a family to provide for- which means working at least one (maybe more) job(s). They also may not have reliable transportation or means of communication. Some of our patients don’t even know where their next meal will come from or how they’ll afford their medications. Once I thought about these stressors, I had a new perspective on why these patients in the ER seemed rude and uncooperative. What I realized was that the patients weren’t rude at all but were simply blunt; probably because they didn’t have time to waste- they needed to get better and get home to provide for their families. They also weren’t uncooperative, but instead simply didn’t have the means to take care of themselves the way middle to upper class families do. On top of that, these patients needed pain medications because they really were in pain. When you can’t take care of yourself the way you need to, then your illnesses are managed and when an illness and its symptoms aren’t managed then there is typically pain involved. I was starting to understand that the underserved population of Cincinnati is completely stereotyped and misunderstood.

The thing that truly changed my life, however, was being able to interact with our patients. For people with so many things going on in their life, they are all incredibly kind and grateful individuals. I work on the pediatric referral team at our OTR location and the amount of parents that are on top of their children’s referrals, while still working a job and taking care of the entire family, is astounding to me. As a college student, I barely manage to care for myself, let alone do everything these super parents do.

Now that you understand the transformation I’ve gone through while volunteering at Crossroads, I will explain how it has affected my future. As you can probably guess, I have developed a passion for working with underserved populations (a complete 180, I know). It is because of my time at Crossroads that I have decided to earn a Masters in Bioethics (with a focus in public health) before I attend medical school. Instead of performing research, as I originally planned, I will have the opportunity to observe public health ethical dilemmas in the health field and I will learn how to handle these dilemmas when I am a physician. After medical school I want to work in emergency medicine at a public hospital. It is my goal to ensure each of my patients are treated with the respect and care that they deserve. The CVIP program has put life and humanity into perspective for me, therefore encouraging me to do whatever I can to change the world (no matter how small my role in doing so may seem); I will forever and always be grateful for that.

-- Gabby Truitt

Monday, April 24, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #14: Tiffany Shi

The time I have spent volunteering with Crossroad so far has been nothing short of amazing and inspiring to me. As a VIP who has done the traditional route of assisting patients with referrals as well as the non-traditional route of being a Tobacco Treatment Group (TTG) VIP has helped me grow in more ways than I could have imagined. 

After moving to Cincinnati in the summer of 2016, I wanted to get integrated and get to know my new community. A colleague suggested I look into volunteering with Crossroad, and it has been a truly eye-opening experience. Crossroad's patient population showed me the disparities in healthcare I have heard talked about, but never seen first-hand. As a referral VIP, I was eager to help patients in any way possible, and was always striven to be as efficient as possible. Through my first rotation, I picked up organizational and communication skills.  

However, it is through my second rotation as a TTG member that makes me feel like I've made an impact on others. The TTG is a group therapy style meeting to discuss tobacco cessation as well as living a healthier lifestyle. Each week we have a check-in with how much the patient smoked in the past week and how their week was, a short lesson on various topics relating to tobacco or health, and then goal-setting to end the session. As someone who is passionate in fitness, nutrition, and well-being, this group seemed like the perfect fit for me. Through the TTG, I learned not only how to communicate with others better, but also how to climb out of my shell and speak up when I have something useful to say. Seeing the patients progress each week as well as knowing that they took in at least a little of the information taught to them each week is what brightens my Mondays. 

Volunteering with Crossroad has been one of the best choices I've made since moving to Cincinnati, and I am so grateful for everything this experience has taught me so far. 

-- Tiffany Shi

Monday, April 17, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #13: Michaela Slevin

          My experience within the VIP program began during the summer of 2016. I was between my sophomore and junior years at Xavier University and eager to begin an opportunity that I have heard about over and over again, during presentations in my first year science classes. I was excited and could not fully anticipate what was in store for me at the Crossroad Harrison location. What I walked into was a deeply rooted community that spanned across Harrison and the surrounding areas, to help neighbors achieve their best health. I was immediately struck by the kindness of each staff member, the eagerness of the other VIPs and the perseverance of each patient I interacted with. The referral appointments were rolling in and I was feeling pretty confident. The tipping point for me was when I realized that Crossroad is not “just a doctor’s office,” although that is where I used to tell people I was spending my time, “a doctor’s office.” I began to realize that the services Crossroad provides go so much deeper than a well-check once a year.
            In the community I grew up in, there was no question about whether or not we would be going to the doctor each year. After coming to Crossroads, I found myself discovering that not everyone has the luxury of knowing that their medical care is taken care of, no questions asked. Not everyone has a parent able to schedule for them, not everyone has a parent able to take them to their appointments. To me, this was an unanticipated and surprising realization that I found myself grappling with at the conclusion of my first rotation. After postponing a semester and returning during the spring 2017 rotation, I again found myself getting into the ebb and flow of referral calls. But the realizations from the previous summer stuck with me and have been amplified over the past months. Medical care, at Crossroads, is not just the check-up with a doctor or scheduling one appointment, which I always took for granted. Medical care is more direct, all-encompassing and time-intensive at Crossroads, to assist those who are experiencing many circumstances that are out of their control. Never did I realize how important getting to work on time, not missing a shift, not missing the bus was, but to our patients, it is essential. That is where I would like to come in. As a VIP, I feel it has become my responsibility to help them get to their work shift, take care of their sick child and make the bus, when they need to. I strive to be a resource for our patients, one that they can utilize and rely on, rather than being another hurdle to conquer. I am extremely grateful for this experience, as it has opened my eyes to the intricacies of medical care and the leaps and bounds some must go through to attend an appointment I always took for granted.

Monday, April 10, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #12: Kaitlyn Davis

My time at Crossroad Health Center has been eye opening in so many different ways. About two years ago I started working with Children’s Hospital in the Emergency Department/ Urgent Care. Patients were seen in a timely manner; in and then out. This is not to take away from the care that they received. Upon starting my time here at Crossroad I was able to shadow a primary care physician. The care that they give is much different than the care in the Emergency Department/Urgent Care due to the pace of the setting. My thoughts on medicine were narrow and because of Crossroad Health Center they are now more broad. Continuity of care is so important and that is exactly what the physicians at Crossroad Health Center focus on. Every member of the team takes the time to know their patients and make each experience for them as pleasurable as it can be.

When a patient first arrives their vitals are taken and then they are walked to an exam room where they wait to be seen by the physician. Upon the physician entering the room introductions are done and the physician takes the time to get to know why the patient is there. If it is a child, as was the case with my shadowing experience, the physician takes the time to talk to the child and make them a part of the experience, no matter their age. After the physical exam takes place the physician decides if the patient needs a referral. This is where my personal experience with the patient happened. If the family would like to schedule right away I would meet with them in person and schedule the appointment. If they would not like to schedule in person, I would call them at home and help.

What really surprised me throughout this experience was the need for the help with referrals. Before volunteering I was not aware that scheduling appointments could be an issue for families. As I have learned everyone does not have access to a telephone to call and schedule the appointments and some do not even know where to begin in terms of scheduling. Being able to do something for someone that makes their day is more rewarding than anything I have done before. At first I was not sure how my role as a referral specialist would directly effect patient care, in terms of continuity, but I have been more than pleasantly surprised that my time at Crossroad Health Center has helped me grow as a person and helped with patient and provider continuity.

      -- Kaitlyn Davis

Monday, April 3, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #11: Angela Ellis

My experience at Crossroads has truly been an incredible one. I am one of two people who works in the Spanish referral team. As a daughter of an immigrant mother from Peru who herself had often faced adversities, especially in receiving health care, when she first arrived to the US, Crossroads really hit home. The Spanish referral team is much like the other referral teams we have at Crossroads, but it's at the same time very different because we deal with patients who more than often struggle more than the majority of the under-deserved population we cater to. For one, they have a language barrier which can be a huge struggle to get the care and help they need if they have a difficult time explaining what's causing them pain.  

Another issue I often come across is that the majority of our Spanish-speaking patients don't have medical insurance because they're not US citizens and therefore can't qualify for services such as Medicaid. However, thanks to UC University Hospital, they have a financial aid program in which patients can be covered for three months at a time if they don't qualify for Medicaid.  However, this process can be lengthy and often times difficult since they need to apply and have to have the necessary documents for them to get approved. Moreover, the financial aid program only covers them for three months at a time, which means they need to reapply every three months to have coverage of their medical needs. 

Yet, through it all, when patients finally get approved and get the appointments and care they need, it is all worth it because you go step by step with them through the entire process just so that they can get basic medical care. They are eternally grateful and are always so patient. 

The patients at Crossroads, especially the Spanish speaking ones, have allowed me to cater to and help my own community here in Cincinnati. It has shown me the very own issues and problems we're having with healthcare in my own backyard. It have given me a sliver of what I hope to do in the future as a primary care physician catering to those that are most often neglected and ignored when it comes to health care. 

-- Angela Ellis

Friday, March 31, 2017

#theVIPExperience Post #10: Shannon Cunningham

                  After every single shift, I understand something more about the population served at Crossroad Health Center in Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati. I initially found interest in and applied to the volunteer internship program because I was drawn to the intersection between my major revolving around politics and natural sciences/premed. Despite my privilege growing up in a middle class suburban family, I recognized systemic poverty from a young age as an issue affecting a larger population that many politicians, corporations, and economically well off people fail to acknowledge.
At no older than eight years old, I remember walking around the streets of Chicago with my family confused and frustrated as to why so many of my fellow humans did not have basic amenities and resources life calls for. Throughout my upbringing, experiences, and education, I came to firmly believe that regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation, and any other marginalized group, every single individual deserves necessities including food, housing, safety, and health care. However, all too often these basic needs are not met. According to CityLink Center, here in Cincinnati in 2015 30.9% of Cincinnati residents live in poverty or over 86,000 people, which is nearly double the national poverty rate and Ohio poverty rate. In other words, one in three Cincinnatians live below the poverty line. In 2012, Cincinnati had the second highest child poverty rate in the nation with a little more than half of all Cincinnati children living in poverty. In 2011, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported, Hamilton County experienced the fifth highest infant mortality rate and the highest rate for African Americans in the country. Causes of poverty are complex as they often are engrained into the functions of society; however, feeding, clothing, and performing healthcare shouldn’t be.
As important as they are, knowing all the facts in figures out there doesn’t matter unless experiences are had to cultivate feelings and thoughts of empathy. My experience at Crossroad Health Center has done just that. Recognizing the significance of a little task or small interaction during our work as VIP’s, can be difficult in the moment. But when I hear the change in tone of patients’ voices on the phone lighten with relief when they hear an appointment was scheduled or see smiles on patients’ faces when they shake your hand after speaking with them in office about their referrals, I remember I am improving the life of a fellow human. Simply, those interactions matter the most.

-- Shannon Cunningham