BTG Hope

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Pittsburgh Projects

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Positive Parenting: Getting an Early Head Start Welcome Packet and Positivity Bracelet

Student Interns:
Kathleen Creppage, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health
Elizabeth Sielen, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

Academic Preceptor:
Tammy Thomas, MSW, MPH, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Deborah Gallagher, Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center (COTRAIC) Early Head Start Program

The Community Site:
Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center (COTRAIC) Early Head Start (EHS) Program provides services for expectant mothers and children from birth to age 3. EHS works with both the caregivers and the children to identify and address possible developmental, environmental and mental health issues. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Health Communication; Immunization; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status

The Project:
Kathleen and Elizabeth accompanied the Council of Three Rivers Early Head Start staff on their home visits. After participating in the visits, they decided to design their project around promoting positivity and relationship building. The two-part project included designing a gesture of kindness and healing (the Positivity Bracelet) to serve as an emotional and ritualistic reminder of a child to his or her parent. The second part was streamlining the Welcome Manual, which included a wealth of mental health information, parenting tips and resources that could be helpful for both client and visitor. Overall, the project’s purpose was to educate, promote positivity, and focus on relationship building among a somewhat younger parent population in hopes of encouraging them to set goals for themselves and their children and engage in healthy habits. Kathleen noted, “I wish I could express half of what these parents have taught me about life and struggling. The whole experience has changed the way I think and the way I work. I literally have a name or a face for every statistic that I read, and the concept of ‘cycle of poverty’ is now very real to me. I’m sorry for anyone who never gets to experience something like this; it really has taught me to reevaluate what I do, think and say. It also just reminds me again of why I got into a field like public health and why our work is so important!” Elizabeth stated, “I will never forget my summer with BTG. Being a home visitor with Early Head Start has given me a deeper understanding of infant mental health. … I will carry this valuable knowledge with me throughout my social work career. The support, dedication and kindness provided by the home visitors and agency to the families was inspiring and invigorating to be a part of. I think every family, regardless of their socioeconomic status, should have the opportunity to be a part of Early Head Start.”

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Expanding the Food Bank: Introducing Oral Health and Hygiene Education Into the Hazelwood YMCA

Student Interns:
Bridget Rochford, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing
Jill Zupetic, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine

Academic Preceptor:
Tracy Soska, MSW, LSW, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

Community Preceptors:
Lisa Donofrio, Hazelwood YMCA
Megan Flanagan, Hazelwood YMCA

The Community Site:
The Hazelwood YMCA, established in 1971, is one of the major resource centers in the greater Hazelwood community. As a resource center, the YMCA provides families and children with various youth development programs, social services and healthy lifestyle programs. Programs include after school care, summer day camp, academic assistance, a daily congregate feeding program, a food pantry, energy assistance, the Silver Sneakers exercise program and a pool safety class. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Access to Health Care; Health Communication; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Oral Health; Preparedness

The Project:
In addition to working as camp counselors at the YMCA summer camp, Bridget and Jill chose to focus their efforts on the YMCA’s Food Bank program and its recipients. Food Bank recipients frequently request hygiene and oral health products; these items are expensive and typically not included in the donations from the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. To address this need, the interns developed an oral health and hygiene pamphlet and a basic hygiene kit to be distributed upon request. The “Your Mouth, Your Body & You” pamphlet contains information on dental caries prevention, the correct technique for brushing teeth, tips for hand washing and food safety information. The adult and children’s pamphlets also list dental health clinics near the greater Hazelwood area that provide either free or affordable dental care or cleanings. Community partnerships with local businesses, hotels and academic organizations at the University of Pittsburgh will continue sponsorship of the hygiene kits. Jill commented, “Working with BTG has opened my eyes to many of the issues faced by members of underserved communities. … As a camp counselor I’ve learned about the openness of children. … We discussed many diverse home environments; incarcerated parents, foster care and loss of relatives to violent crimes were experienced by several of the children who attend camp. I’ve also talked to members … who have been challenged with decaying Section 8 housing, lack of health insurance and paychecks that don’t always stretch to the end of the month. Meeting these individuals and hearing their stories in their community has taught me the value of listening. My experience with BTG has given me patience. … As I enter my second year of medical school with an interest in pediatrics I know I will encounter children and families who face very similar issues to those I learned about this summer. The perspective I gained through my BTG internship will be invaluable in providing quality, patient-centered care in my future career.” Bridget noted, “I have had one of the most wonderful learning experiences of my life this summer because of the BTG program. From spending time at the Hazelwood YMCA and forming bonds with a majority of the children, I have learned about life in an urban, underserved community from a child’s perspective. … They were the ones who taught me about what living in Hazelwood was like, about how being an underserved community affects them, and how to think about their behavior and actions as a form of communication. But there was one thing each child had that they could not teach me: resilience. Each has a different background, home life or tragic event happen in their lives, yet, despite these obstacles, the children keep pursuing ways to better themselves, reach their goals and move away from their past. … Working at the Hazelwood YMCA has also influenced my professional nursing aspirations … to work more closely with underserved communities, such as Hazelwood, and focus on community health. Being a part of the lives of so many children, working at the Hazelwood YMCA, and getting to know Hazelwood is one the greatest influential experiences of my life that I will always cherish and value.”

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Fitwits Evaluation

Student Interns:
Stephen Janofsky, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
Margaret Martone, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptor:
Michael Yonas, DrPH, MPH, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine

Community Preceptors:
Andrea Arrington, MPH, Braddock Youth Project
Jessica Schmid, Braddock Youth Project

The Community Site:
The Braddock Youth Project provides a summer and after school employment program for youth aged 14 to 18 that includes opportunities to restore the community through creative service-learning and team-building educational modules. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Health Communication; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
Stephen and Margaret facilitated the Fitwits program at the Braddock Youth Project (BYP). Fitwits is a hands-on educational experience using interactive games, fun characters, entertaining videos, engaging PowerPoint presentations and tactile demonstrations to teach children about making healthier nutrition and exercise choices. At Braddock the program is implemented through a peer education model. The interns coached the youth in the knowledge and skills needed for them to present the material to children at various summer camps and food sites in the area. Through focus groups and a program evaluation, Stephen and Margaret identified the strengths and weaknesses of incorporating Fitwits into the youths’ summer employment experience. Stephen said, “Before this summer, I hadn’t worked with teens in any sort of professional context. I was expecting a difficult and challenging experience. The youth of the BYP pleasantly surprised me with their willingness to accept an outsider and make me one of their own. I learned quite a bit about myself, namely how much I enjoy working with the age group we serve. But more importantly, I learned about teens and how to get the most out of them. Thanks to BTG and the BYP for the opportunity.” Margaret reflected, “Every day the youth impressed me with their professionalism, energy, intelligence and kindness. … I enjoyed working with them immensely. Because of the BYP youth and staff, I discovered the potential that … exists in Braddock. This community, which is often overlooked, is in fact filled with many wonderful people working to revitalize the town and its people. I was honored to spend a summer here and be a part of those efforts.”

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Anti-Bullying PSA: "You Are Not Alone"

Student Interns:
Haafiz Boyd, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
Carly Schram, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine

Academic Preceptor:
Jon Pletcher, MD, University of Pittsburgh, Children’s Hospital

Community Preceptor:
Reverend Tim Smith, Center of Life

The Community Site:
The Center of Life (COL) is a faith-based organization located in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. COL empowers children, youth and families to learn the skills necessary to build stronger communities. An entrepreneurial spirit is created through the implementation of various programs, including KRUNK, Fusion and COL basketball. COL is also active in partnering with several local organizations both in Hazelwood and in the greater Pittsburgh area, including the Hazelwood Initiative, the Pittsburgh Foundation and Gateway to the Arts, to revitalize the Hazelwood community and build bridges to other parts of Pittsburgh. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Health Communication; Injury and Violence Prevention; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Mental Health

The Project:
Haafiz and Carly collaborated with the Center of Life (COL) staff in the creation of a music video public service announcement (PSA) about bullying. The interns initiated conversations with the KRUNK program’s Summer Dreamers students, who were located in four Pittsburgh public schools. These conversations focused on the types and effects of bullying and how to deal with bullying in everyday life. The “You Are Not Alone” PSA highlights the isolation that children who are bullied experience and promotes a positive message of inclusiveness and respect for one another. It also serves to alert the Pittsburgh community that bullying is an important issue. The PSA is designed to target as broad an audience as possible, with the primary focus on preteens and teens. In addition, the interns added a bullying fact page to the COL website. Haafiz stated, “The COL is a unique agency brimming with a plethora of creative people. It is refreshing to find a group of such passionate performers devoted to giving back to the community and setting a positive example for today’s youth. COL does an excellent job of nurturing the community’s youth through their innovative programs and manages to do a lot with limited resources. I am inspired daily by being in their company.” Carly noted, “I have enjoyed getting to know all of the talented people at COL and learned a lot about music creation and the process of making a music video. This project has shown me both the need for positive health messages about bullying and the bright future kids have with programs like KRUNK, which help them to connect their own culture with academic lessons that will help them to succeed. It is clear that some major changes in health education are necessary on many different levels, and that both kids and their parents need to be taught basic coping and relationship skills in order to improve mental health and reduce bullying. … My knowledge about the dynamics and history in Pittsburgh neighborhoods has also increased from this experience, such that I will be able to better understand the backgrounds of the patients I see in the remainder of medical school.”

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Smoking Cessation at Birmingham Clinic

Student Interns:
Sudha Mokkapati, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy
Collette Ncube, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptor:
Thuy Bui, MD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine

Community Preceptors:
Sharon Connor, PharmD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy
Lauren Jonkman, PharmD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy

The Community Site:
The Birmingham Free Clinic (BFC), located in Pittsburgh’s South Side, is the only completely free walk-in health clinic in the city. The BFC provides services ranging from diagnosis and prevention of disease to management of chronic conditions, specialty health care services, and extensive health and social service referrals and case management. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Access to Health Care; Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Health Communication; Preparedness; Tobacco Use

The Project:
Sudha and Collette collaborated with the Birmingham Free Clinic’s Smoking Cessation Clinic to address the issues of patients who smoked and were not yet actively trying to quit. They developed two versions of a Smoking Assessment Tool (one to be used for new patients, the other for returning patients) that became a new addition to the clinic’s intake forms. The Smoking Assessment Tool provided basic knowledge about the patient’s smoking habits and the motivations and barriers behind the patient’s desire (or lack of desire) to quit smoking. Targeting individual patients’ motivations and barriers helped create awareness about smoking habits in the patient and helped the interns create specific informational pamphlets that corresponded with the patients’ individual concerns regarding smoking. The goal was to raise patients’ awareness, address their individual concerns and eventually get more smokers to actively try to quit smoking. Collette said, “BTG has been a great experience for me, and I am glad that I got the opportunity to be a part of it! … The staff at the site was very welcoming and encouraged me to participate in the patient care process. I conducted patient intake, measured basic vital signs, worked in the pharmacy and observed physician examinations of patients with drug addictions, as well as those struggling to manage their hypertension or diabetes. This experience has caused me to expand my public health areas of interest to include the management of chronic diseases. The patients at the clinic would receive free medications, and so their lack of medical insurance did not hinder their access to care and treatment. However, in speaking with the patients I realized, more so than I had before, that there is a lot more going on in the lives of these patients, and a lot of it may need to be addressed at a community or policy level in order to improve the health of the people.” Sudha noted, “BTG was an excellent opportunity to work extensively with a population of patients whom I would not have had the chance to work with otherwise. Before starting this eight-week program, I had some idea that health care works differently for those who are insured and those who are not, but in this program I got to see firsthand just how much of a disparity there can be when a patient does not have the money to pay for medications or a medical procedure. I was pleased to find that the Birmingham Clinic does an excellent job in decreasing this disparity for its patients as much as possible. I feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity to work with such a selfless organization, practice providing health care for a population that truly needs it, and become more confident in my abilities as a student pharmacist and future health care provider. I highly recommend this program to any student who is remotely interested in helping serve those who are underserved.”

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Eating Healthy on a Budget: Resource Guide

Student Interns:
Carson Adams, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
Tommy Pearce, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work

Academic Preceptor:
Patricia Nowalk, PhD, RD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine

Community Preceptor:
Dina Ciabattoni, Community Human Services

The Community Site:
Community Human Services Corporation (CHS), located in South Oakland, Pittsburgh, seeks to enhance people’s lives and strengthen communities by providing opportunities to develop individual potential and by delivering comprehensive services that maximize health and well-being. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
Carson and Tommy created the “Eating Healthy on a Budget” project for the Community Human Services (CHS) Food Bank program. The primary purpose of the project was to create a food resource guide to be handed out at the food pantry. The guide included recipes that incorporated common food pantry and food bank items; other general food information, such as storage guidelines for many food products; instructions on how to read a nutritional label and how to locate fresh food within the city of Pittsburgh; USDA health-related information and nutritional guidelines for the general population, especially on reducing the sodium in one’s diet; and dietary guidelines for people with chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. Carson and Tommy also created supplemental handouts from the resource guide components on hypertension, diabetes and sodium reduction to be used by people in other CHS programs. Tommy said, “I have been exposed to individuals whom I likely would have never otherwise engaged with. Working directly with interdisciplinary students in a community—incidentally my community—I have been able to better understand diverse perspectives on social issues and the contexts that cause these issues to affect each of us differently. I have developed a better understanding that holistic and preventative community health actions, implemented by the collective resources of local social service agencies, are vital to the well-being of our communities. I have faced many of my own biases towards aspects of the community in which I worked and developed deeper relationships with individuals whom I would have not thought possible, realizing that we are often barriers to ourselves.” Carson noted, “The BTG program has provided me with a uniquely invaluable opportunity. … First and foremost, I was able to work closely with students of different educational backgrounds and different strengths to forge productive and successful partnerships to execute our project ideas. Additionally, working at CHS gave me the opportunity to interact with many individuals who are the recipients of stigmatizing stereotypes by our society, and the eight-week internship allowed me to interact with them in a longitudinal manner and personally experience the human spirit that resides within everyone. … I can say with confidence that my experiences from this internship will serve as a constant reminder of the importance and value of teamwork and respect throughout my future as a physician.”

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SPOT Education and Awareness

Student Interns:
Sammie Mangino, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
Kathryn Peart, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

Academic Preceptor:
Ann Mitchell, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

Community Preceptor:
Dina Ciabattoni, Community Human Services

The Community Site:
Community Human Services Corporation (CHS), located in South Oakland, Pittsburgh, seeks to enhance people’s lives and strengthen communities by providing opportunities to develop individual potential and by delivering comprehensive services that maximize health and well-being. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Health Communication; Mental Health; Oral Health; Tobacco Use

The Project:
After exploring the needs at Community Health Services Corporation (CHS), Sammie and Kathryn designed and implemented a tobacco awareness project that could be integrated into many of the programs and activities at CHS. The interns named the project SPOT (Stop Puffing on Tobacco). They developed a six-week group curriculum, with hands-on activities, that addressed the ingredients of a cigarette; financial costs associated with smoking; smoking’s impact on health, including oral health; and alternatives and resources to help one quit. The group sessions were offered at three different CHS program locations and were open to the public. Sammie and Kathryn also developed presentations for both younger children and adolescents and a multitude of materials, including brochures and flyers to be posted around the organization to raise awareness. In addition, the interns arranged for the Birmingham Clinic to accept referrals to their free smoking-cessation clinic. Sammie and Kathryn found grants to fund the continuation of the project after their internship ended and made plans for future interns to continue the program. Sammie noted, “This was a great opportunity to get involved with the community personally and to get hands-on experience working with an agency that addresses many different populations. The agency is involved with so many populations that we had to develop our SPOT program to cater to the needs of each different group. … This was a great way to incorporate and practice what I have learned in school into real-life scenarios.” Kathryn reflected, “I have learned so much from working at CHS. … Through our time here, and especially from interacting with people in our SPOT groups, I have learned how to adapt, communicate and work together with the residents and populations served at CHS. And I have learned from the people. I will take what I have learned and apply the knowledge through my life and career. I couldn’t have asked for a better site, mentor or project. I am very happy with the results of our project, time here and this internship as a whole. I am very thankful to everyone who has been a part of my experience.”

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Women’s Welcome Packet & Children’s Activity Booklet

Student Interns:
Jill Schroeder, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health
Judy Stricker, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

Academic Preceptor:
Martha Ann Terry, BA, MA, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Community Preceptors:
Traci Arnold, Alle-Kiski HOPE Center, Inc.
Lindsay Hudak, Alle-Kiski HOPE Center, Inc.
Rachel Weleski, Alle-Kiski HOPE Center, Inc.

The Community Site:
The Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center, Inc., is a domestic violence shelter located in Tarentum, Pennsylvania. The shelter, along with a transitional housing unit and an administrative outreach office, serves abused women and families in the Allegheny-Westmoreland region. The HOPE Center’s goal is to help victims of domestic abuse restart their lives in a healthy and productive manner, empowering women to make their own decisions. The HOPE Center strives to provide a safe environment for women to recover from their individual crises, providing options, information, education and support. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Access to Health Care; Health Communication; Injury and Violence Prevention; Maternal, Infant and Child Health

The Project:
Jill and Judy’s project at the Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center, Inc., was designed to make entering the shelter and transitional environments as comfortable and stress-free as possible. The interns created a welcome packet to give to the women once they complete their intake paperwork, providing them with a number of resources to make their transition to the HOPE Center less threatening. The packet encompasses a wide variety of resources, ranging from bus schedules to easy, family-friendly recipes. In addition to the women’s component, they created three age-specific activity booklets for children, with items such as coloring pages, short stories and word searches, to occupy the children while their mothers complete the necessary paperwork upon entry. Both the women’s welcome packet and the children’s activity booklets will be employed in the shelter setting and the transitional housing unit; the children’s activity booklets will also be made available at a number of local legal offices, such as the Protection From Abuse Office and local magistrates. Judy noted, “Throughout my experience as a BTG intern and working with the HOPE Center, I realized how many items I have taken for granted over the years. The women and children in the shelter barely had the basic necessities, but somehow still managed to wake up each day with a smile and a positive outlook. I gained a new perspective about the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness, and this experience broke a lot of the stereotypes and fear I had about working with this vulnerable population.” Jill commented, “During my time spent at the HOPE Center, I developed a much clearer understanding of how many issues a shelter participant faces. I now have a greater appreciation for the difficulties they endure, big and small, and how much assistance they could utilize. Furthermore, it was very interesting to see the spectrum of individuals and families that benefit from the HOPE Center’s services and resources.”

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Healthier, Stronger, Smarter: YOU!

Student Interns:
Erica Friedman, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work and School of Public Health
Virginia Lee, University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing

Academic Preceptor:
Jessie Burke, PhD, MHS, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health

Community Preceptors:
Nicholas Hartman, Womansplace
Caitlin Walk, Womansplace

The Community Site:
Womansplace, based in McKeesport, is a shelter for women and men who have experienced domestic violence. The shelter provides a wide spectrum of services, including a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter for homeless individuals, counseling, support groups, safety planning, information and referrals, prevention, education and community outreach. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Injury and Violence Prevention; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness; Substance Abuse; Tobacco Use

The Project:
Working with the Womansplace staff, Erica and Virginia identified the need for a structured and educational children’s program. They created a two-session program called “Healthier, Stronger, Smarter: YOU!” that adopted concepts from the Visual Voices program by encouraging children to use art to express their perceptions of health. Group readings and discussions augmented the knowledge the children displayed. The interns also designed a parental guide to healthy eating to educate parents on how to make healthy food choices while staying within a budget. The goal of the project was to provide children with a space to voice their ideas about health and to expand this knowledge through structured activities and various mediums. Erica noted, “BTG is meant to ‘bridge the gaps’ between the community and health professionals; it has been my experience that it also bridges the gaps found within the health profession. The interdisciplinary model helped me to better understand the perspectives of other health professionals with whom I will closely work in the future. This newfound understanding has given me a more holistic perspective, which is invaluable when serving vulnerable populations. Moreover, as academics, we often intellectualize what it means to be ‘vulnerable.’ Working at Womansplace has allowed me to see that vulnerable populations are populations like any other—these women have hopes and dreams, strengths and weaknesses, and an overwhelming desire to live productive, healthy lives.” Virginia said, “BTG has torn down many of my preconceived ideas and opinions about the underserved populations within the United States. Because of the reflective sessions, the group discussions and the in-depth reading, I was able to expand my knowledge and understanding about social programs and underprivileged people and groups. This will greatly help me in my career as a nurse. I have been taught about diversity and cultural understanding in the classroom, but, through BTG, I have experienced and now truly understand what those practices mean. I have learned a lot about myself, what I believe and think, and about others and their backgrounds. BTG made me branch out, learn new things and develop myself within my future career.”

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BTG 20 Years Video
BTG 20th Anniversary Tribute
"My internship … has affected me deeply. I have learned about the complexities of substance abuse and the struggles women face to remain clean. Working with a student from a discipline other than my own has helped me to view health issues from another perspective."
BTG Student Intern
BTG 20 Years Video
What BTG Means to Us

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