BTG Hope

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Philadelphia Consortium Projects

Homeless & Transitional Housing

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Serving the Homeless Population Through Advocacy, Education and Community

Student Interns:
Bao Ha, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College
Mary O’Rourke, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson School of Population Health

Academic Preceptor:
Robert Simmons, DrPH, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson School of Population Health

Community Preceptor:
Jason A. Roskowski, Bethesda Project, My Brother’s House

The Community Site:
My Brother’s House, a component of the Bethesda Project, is a safe-haven shelter for formerly homeless men who battle mental illness and substance abuse. 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.); Heart Disease and Stroke; Physical Activity and Fitness; Tobacco Use

The Project:
With the guidance of the case manager and the staff at My Brother’s House, Molly and Bao designed a process to assess the needs of the residents. The interns began by reviewing residents’ files, including medical, psychiatric and case histories. With this information, they had conversations with the men about their personal goals, which included navigating the medical and public welfare systems, changing health behaviors and developing a sense of autonomy. Molly and Bao facilitated discussions on various health topics, including physical activity, cardiovascular health, lung disease, dehydration, diabetes and oral health. The interns helped to streamline communication among staff members by updating the Bethesda Project online database system and organizing the daily distribution of prescription medicines. Molly and Bao also organized recreational activities to encourage the men to take an active role in their health. Bao noted, “Being able to work with the men here at My Brother’s House has given me an opportunity to view the medical system from a different perspective. In this short amount of time, I’ve been able to learn about the complicated and difficult situations these men have to face on a daily basis. They’ve shared with me experiences and lessons that will influence my medical career.” Molly reflected, “I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know the men at My Brother’s House. As a student of public health, I’ve been able to better understand the social complexities of our health care system. The process has been frustrating at times, but needless to say, this has been an extremely enlightening experience.”

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Artology: Inquire, Explore, Create

Student Interns:
Julia Dillard, Drexel University, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Creative Arts in Therapy
Ashley Gavoni, Drexel University, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Creative Arts in Therapy
Katrina Loh, Drexel University College of Medicine
Samantha Rivera, Drexel University, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptor:
Florence Ierardi, MM, MT-BC, LPC, Drexel University, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Creative Arts in Therapy

Community Preceptor:
Alysia Williams, MA, Build-a-Bridge

The Community Site:
Build-a-Bridge, located in Germantown, is an arts education and intervention organization that engages the transformative power of the arts to bring hope and healing to children, families and communities. Artology is an educational summer camp that provides dynamic learning by integrating the arts and sciences in a rigorous curriculum. Artology is designed to serve youth coping with homelessness and poverty from Build-a-Bridge’s partner sites in North, West and Northwest Philadelphia. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Disabilities and Secondary Conditions; Injury and Violence Prevention; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Mental Health; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
Julia, Ashley, Katrina and Samantha worked as group leaders for both sessions of the Artology Summer Camp. Each intern was responsible for assisting a group of “Artologists” during their art projects and science experiments. As group leaders, the interns were not only role models and counselors for campers but also caring adults who encouraged and supported the youth through their Artology experience. Many of the Artologists were facing challenges stemming from homelessness, poverty and/or learning/mental disabilities. The interns worked to provide an essential component in creating a safe and motivating learning environment that promoted healing from all kinds of trauma. Julia commented, “BTG gave me an opportunity to discover the joys and trials of working with an age group I’ve never been involved with before: middle-school-aged kids. Although they certainly challenged me at every opportunity, getting to know each of them and their unique perspective on life was really rewarding. I also learned the value of being able to laugh at oneself, and new ways to use humor to defuse tension and build relationships.” Ashley commented, “Before BTG, I had a preconceived notion that elementary-school-aged children were unable to do introspective work, as well as be insightful enough for art psychotherapy to be meaningful on a deeper level than just art as therapy. However, after working with many bright, engaged, enthusiastic, interested and insightful children this summer, I have re-formed my opinion. I now believe that even young children can participate in more introspective work. As an aspiring art therapist my ideal population age was adolescents to middle-aged adults, but now I will consider working with even younger people.” Katrina said, “The experiences I have had this past summer with Artology have given me a better understanding of the surrounding community and reminded me how much I enjoy working with kids. I was first drawn to the program by its focus on creating safe environments for children through the arts, and I believe that Artology fulfills that mission while uncapping the imagination and creativity of every child in the camp. Each day that I spent working with and learning from the kids provided me with both challenges and inspiration that impacted my personal development and perspective. I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to not only participate in such a wonderful program, but also to learn from all these incredibly talented and aspiring young minds. I will definitely miss starting off my day with morning drum circle!” Samantha noted, “My BTG experience reacquainted me with the beauty of a child’s vulnerability and resilience. Artology is an amazing summer camp that empowers, motivates and supports middle-school-aged kids who are already experiencing hardships. Whether the child comes from a past of pain, poverty or insecurity, Artology helps build their character and their confidence. I learned so much from each child I encountered this summer, and I am grateful to have had this experience.”

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Teaching Young Adults How to Take Charge of Their Health and Well-Being

Student Interns:
Sienna Barbeau, University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing
Dania Joseph, Drexel University College of Medicine
Carlton Taylor, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine

Academic Preceptors:
Robert Chapman, PhD, Drexel University, College of Nursing and Health Professions
Joan I. Gluch, PhD, RDH, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine
Ann L. O’Sullivan, PhD, FAAN, CRNP, University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing

Community Preceptor:
Denise Johnson, Covenant House Pennsylvania

The Community Site:
Covenant House Pennsylvania (CHPA) Crisis Center, located in Germantown, seeks to support youth aged 18 to 21 in crisis, by providing shelter, support and care. The crisis center provides a full range of services, including case management and advocacy, access to legal advice, on-site health care provided by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and educational and vocational counseling and training programs. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Access to Health Care; Heart Disease and Stroke; HIV; Immunization; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Tobacco Use

The Project:
Throughout the summer Sienna, Dania and Carlton worked with the Life Skills Program at Covenant House Pennsylvania to help youth (18 to 21 years old) with their employment search efforts. Tasks included conducting interviews about past experiences, exploring various employment options and assisting youth in creating resumes. The interns also organized a series of health and life-skills workshops. These included cardiovascular health, nutrition and exercise, oral health, stress management and respiratory health. They engaged the youth in various activities such as interpreting their knowledge through art, games, a short exercise routine and knowledge-based quizzes. The interns also held empowering events in which the youth could showcase their strengths, including a talent show, a field day, a trip to the Mütter Museum and numerous game days. In addition, they facilitated discussions on free entertainment opportunities in Philadelphia, banking basics and building healthy relationships. The purpose of these activities was to expose the youth to fresh experiences, in hope of giving them a new outlook. Sienna noted,Working at Covenant House has helped me appreciate the range of human experiences. I have learned how important it is to listen to the stories of the residents, especially before forming an opinion of them. Additionally, BTG as a whole has allowed me to explore various topics that have enriched my understanding of the issues both at my site and in Philadelphia.” Carlton said, “As a BTG intern at Covenant House, I had the opportunity to meet people from difficult backgrounds. I saw many stereotypes dissolve under knowledge of who these youth really are. … As a future dental professional, many times I will only see people’s mouths for a short time. However, those mouths are connected to real people with real stories, and I intend to always treat my patients without judgment or bias.” Dania commented, “In order to provide a patient with appropriate health care, it is integral to connect with the patient, hear their life stories, and understand how I can extrapolate their strengths to properly treat them. Throughout the BTG summer, I made it a point to keep an open mind and open heart in order to make an impact and build substantial relationships with the youth at Covenant House. This was an experience that I will always cherish, especially when finally given the opportunity to practice medicine in underserved areas.”

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Discovering One’s Passions: The Key to Recovery

Student Interns: 
Meha Patel, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College
Maureen Whitsett, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College

Academic Preceptor:
Maria Hervada-Page, MSS, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College

Community Preceptor: 
Brenee Naylor, MS, Mercy Hospice

The Community Site:
Mercy Hospice provides transitional housing and support for women recovering from alcohol and drug addiction. Staff members provide educational and support groups for the women’s recovery, help women find housing, offer job skills training and provide child care support for women with children. The case managers help organize women’s outpatient and medical needs. In addition, Mercy provides daytime care and meals to homeless women, women living in shelters and women living in danger of homelessness. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Environmental Health; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness; Substance Abuse

The Project:
Meha and Maureen facilitated educational and recreational groups for the women of Mercy Hospice who were in recovery. The interns hoped to enable the women to discover new and rediscover old passions and hobbies to involve themselves in. The women enjoyed weekly outings to the movies at Penn’s Landing and a chance to spend quality time with each other outside of the Hospice. An educational trip to the Mütter Museum sparked the women’s interest in learning about the wonders of the human body. Arts and crafts sessions provided the women with an opportunity to express themselves and illustrated the activities they can engage in to keep their hearts healthy. During the Mural Mile walk, the women discovered and reflected on the murals scattered throughout their neighborhood and had the chance to exercise through walking. Interns led sessions on skin care and meditation to emphasize holistic care. In addition, Meha and Maureen led health education groups about oral hygiene, cardiovascular health, nutrition and stress management, and gardening, jumping rope and yoga were introduced as heart-healthy activities for the women to enjoy. Meha shared, “The inner strength and determination that drive these women through the lifelong process of recovery is truly inspiring. The perspectives I have gained from working with these women and hearing of their struggles will truly be invaluable in understanding my future patients.” Maureen added, “I am extremely grateful for the honesty of the women in transition, the staff at Mercy and the day guests, for by sharing their experiences and reflections of addiction, recovery and homelessness, they have given me the gifts of understanding and awareness. My interactions with the women has awakened me to the importance of reserving judgment of others—no matter what their life experiences, attitudes or mental health statuses are—and of appreciating the strength and courage required to choose a life in recovery.”

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Child Interactions at the People’s Emergency Center

Student Intern:
Michael Allen, Drexel University, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptors:
Mario Cruz, MD, Drexel University College of Medicine
Janet Moore, PsyD, Drexel University College of Medicine

Community Preceptor:
Madeline Hoch, People’s Emergency Center

The Community Site:
The People’s Emergency Center (PEC) is a West Philadelphia homeless shelter that extends its services and a supportive environment to women and their children. PEC’s residents are encouraged and taught to become self-sufficient. The PEC continuum of assistance enables these families to learn core life skills in order to promote independence and eventual promotion to transitional and permanent housing. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Injury and Violence Prevention; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Mental Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Responsible Sexual Behavior

The Project:
Mike worked with the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) to gain a broader understanding of the difficulties of parenthood for homeless families in Philadelphia. Working closely with the staff at PEC, Mike led parent-child interaction activities, including art projects, cooperative reading, movie time and more. By encouraging mothers to spend time with their children, Mike and PEC staff promoted emotional well-being as well as a stable, safe environment in which both mothers and children could thrive and learn core life skills. Mike taught important lessons about basic hygiene to school-age children at PEC and presented information regarding safe sex and healthy relationships to the teens. Mike reflected, “Not only did PEC enable me to witness the emotional impacts of homelessness, but it also provided me with a safe haven in which I, too, could develop professionally and emotionally. I have regained my ability to see the innocence of childhood and the beautiful tenderness of their psyches. My experience at PEC will remain with me.”

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Wii Would Like to Play

Student Interns:
Jawad Ali, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program
John Minchak, University of the Sciences, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Pharmacy Practice/Pharmacy Administration Department

Academic Preceptors:
Eugene Mochan, PhD, DO, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Ruth L. Schemm, EdD, OTR/L, University of the Sciences, Mayes College of Healthcare Business and Policies, Department of Health Policy and Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Angela Libby, MA, ATR, The Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center

The Community Site:
The mission of the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center, located in Center City, is to provide employment, training, related educational services, social and human services counseling, and referrals to less fortunate veterans experiencing barriers in finding their way back into the mainstream of society. The PVMSEC also aims to provide coordinated and comprehensive services to military veterans by eliminating barriers for successful transition and addressing needs for independent reintegration into their community. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Access to Health Care; Environmental Health; Heart Disease and Stroke; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
Jawad and John’s project centered on educational discussions and trivia games with the veterans at the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center. The weekly discussions varied based on current events, and the trivia games mentally engaged the veterans and built camaraderie. The interns also worked to integrate daily recreational activities that promoted physical wellness and social interactions, including playing Nintendo Wii, having the veterans do push-ups and sit-ups before meals, and encouraging them to assist in cleaning the site. Jawad noted, “Working at PVMSEC this summer has given me a hands-on experience of life in the inner city. This will help me better integrate into serving the underserved population in Philadelphia during my medical rotations and future medical endeavors.” John noted, “The PVMSEC has given me so much insight and experiences that I have learned from and will cherish for many years to come. I hope that I have made as big of a difference in our clients’ eyes as they have in mine.”

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Fun, Fit, Full of Life

Student Interns:
Bulbul Bhattacharya, Drexel University, School of Public Health
Laura Urbanski, Drexel University College of Medicine

Academic Preceptor:
Mario Cruz, MD, Drexel University College of Medicine

Community Preceptor:
Arlene Malcolm-Bell, PhD, Women Against Abuse, Emergency Shelter, Children’s Summer Program

The Community Site:
Women Against Abuse (WAA) provides services to victims of domestic violence, including emergency housing for battered women and their children, legal services, hotline counseling, education and training, and advocacy. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Health Communication; Heart Disease and Stroke; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
As interns at Women Against Abuse (WAA), Bulbul and Laura worked in a summer camp for children living in the WAA Emergency Shelter. They created health education lessons for the children, aged 6 to 13, who participated in the camp and helped to prepare them academically for the upcoming school year through math and literacy activities. To encourage physical activity and exploration, they escorted the children on field trips to the zoo, the Wissahickon Environmental Center and the park for swimming. Bulbul and Laura strived to create a healthy environment where the children were safe to have fun and learn. Bulbul said, “I had a great opportunity this summer to serve the community. I am grateful to BTG for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I learned a lot about children who are less fortunate. I hope that I will be able to use this experience in my professional life.” Laura reflected, “I have learned some very specific skills this summer, including the planning of a unit and the organization of a summer camp. I have come to have an understanding, better than what could have been conveyed in a classroom, of intimate partner violence and some of the associated health issues. I have been fortunate enough to learn all this while having a really fantastic time with some great kids. This summer has made me sensitive to an issue that I will likely come into contact with in my professional career. In the process, I feel that I have been able to bring some stability and pleasure into the lives of some kids in a difficult situation.”

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Who’s the Teacher? Who’s the Student? Lessons Learned at Sojourner House

Student Interns:
Kelli Braightmeyer, Drexel University College of Medicine
Gabrielle Hawkins, Drexel University College of Medicine

Academic Preceptor:
Mario Cruz, MD, Drexel University College of Medicine

Community Preceptor:
Maria Tate, Women Against Abuse, Sojourner House

The Community Site:
The Sojourner House of Women Against Abuse (WAA) is a transitional housing program that provides family apartments (up to 24 months) for women and their children who have been made homeless due to domestic violence. Supportive services include case management, group counseling, on-site child care, after school programs, and parenting and life-skills education. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Injury and Violence Prevention; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Tobacco Use

The Project:
Kelli and Gabrielle worked with the preschool and school-age children (aged 2 to 14) at Sojourner House’s summer camp program. The goal of the project was to create a learning environment that allowed the children to build self-confidence and prepared them for the upcoming academic year. The interns conducted academic review sessions, performed health education activities, facilitated arts and crafts sessions and prepared hands-on science activities. Health topics covered included oral health, cardiovascular health, personal hygiene, nutrition and violence. Weekly science lessons focused on trees, animals, the solar system and the human brain. Kelli and Gabrielle assisted the staff with weekly field trips and twice-weekly trips to the park, where the campers participated in swimming, basketball and playground fun. Kelli said, “This experience has opened my eyes to the physical, emotional, social and developmental effects intimate partner violence (IPV) has on children. In a short period of time I have been able to form relationships with these children and have watched them learn and grow. The resiliency of these children is something that will stay with me as I move forward in my education and career.” Gabrielle shared, “In a short amount of time, building relationships with the kids has emphasized the critical role of adults in nurturing the development of independence, confidence and strong character in children. Working within the community this summer has allowed me to relate what I have learned in the classroom to the children’s lived experiences, and this is a tool that will remain with me throughout my training. Furthermore, our training in IPV provided me the opportunity to contemplate the essential role of physicians in screening everyone for IPV as well as how the perception and definition of IPV have changed from the mid-’90s until the present.”

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"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."
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