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Philadelphia Consortium Projects - 2012

Homeless & Transitional Housing

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Bridging the Gaps at Covenant House, Summer 2012

Student Interns:
Gregory Epps, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine
Audun Lier, Drexel University College of Medicine
Christine Prifti, Drexel University College of Medicine
Travis Tucker, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine

Academic Preceptors:
Robert Chapman, PhD, Drexel University, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Behavioral Health Counseling Department
Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, MS.Ed, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine
Joan I. Gluch, PhD, RDH, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine

Community Preceptor:
Denise Johnson, Covenant House Pennsylvania

The Community Site:
Covenant House Crisis Center, or “the Cov,” is 50+ bed shelter located in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Youth in crisis (homeless, runaway or trafficked young people) between the ages of 17 and 21 can live at the Cov as they work toward gaining meaningful full-time employment or completing high school. Once individuals become residents of the Cov they are required to attend job search training, and they are expected to actively look for employment during their stay. In addition, residents qualify for free meals, medical treatment and various other necessities such as professional clothing for job interviews. The Cov is meant to be a stepping-stone toward increased responsibility. For instance, qualified residents may apply for Rights of Passage (ROP), whereby they live in an apartment owned by Covenant House Pennsylvania and can work toward achieving independent living. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Heart Disease and Stroke; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness;
Tobacco Use

The Project:
Greg, Audun, Christine, and Travis worked together to design health promotion programs for the residents of Covenant House. These programs ranged from teaching the young adults about oral health, nutrition and tobacco use to presentations focused on basic life skills such as money management, to a basketball competition. The interns also encouraged and uplifted the residents as they searched for jobs and prepared for their interviews. To support the young adults’ job search efforts, the interns conducted a clothing drive and organized the Covenant “boutique”—a closet that included donated professional attire. In addition, they helped prepare for a graduation party by decorating and acquiring necessary items such as picture frames for the youths’ diplomas. Greg stated, “My BTG experience provided invaluable insight into the actions and mind-set of the underserved and underprivileged. Through their life stories, the youth at Covenant House have challenged my perception of homelessness and the needs of a vulnerable population. As I enter the medical profession, my experience this summer will influence my interactions with patients from various backgrounds, enabling me to provide better care.” Audun reflected, “I am immensely grateful for having the opportunity to take part in BTG this past summer. Not only have I seen the frustrated face of despair when learning about social inequality, but I have also seen the faces of resilience that rise above the turmoil and their desire to make the most of their lives. My experience this summer at Covenant House will stay with me for the rest of my life and has motivated me to change the way that I will view my future patients.” Christine noted, “BTG affirmed my future career goals, restored my interpersonal skills and spirit after a year of challenging academics, and revitalized my commitment to medicine for under-resourced communities. The residents of Covenant House challenged assumptions I didn’t know I had, and helped me understand experiences I have not lived. The impact of the program will stay with me as I continue my career, and the experience would not have been possible without funding from BTG.” Travis stated, “BTG affected my experience as a professional by exposing me more directly to the needs and behavior of the underserved. … As I serve them in my future practice, I will be able to better empathize with others living in similar circumstances. Also, due to my relationships developed over this seven-week program, I will be ever more committed to delivering the best possible primary care as a dentist.”

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Creating a Healthy Community and Building Relationships to Make a Difference in the Lives of Homeless Men

Student Interns:
Emily Sherrard, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College
Gregory Wigger, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College

Academic Preceptor:
Nancy Brisbon, MD, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College

Community Preceptor:
Hillary Coulter, 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. Bethesda Project operates 15 spaces/programs for Philadelphia’s homeless and formerly homeless men and women. Their services include emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing, case management services and community activities to help each individual reach his or her highest level of self-sufficiency. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Environmental Health; Health Communication; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness; Tobacco Use

The Project:
With the support and guidance of the case manager, project coordinator, and staff at My Brother’s House (MBH), Emily and Greg sought to make an impact on the lives of the residents by educating the men, improving their environment, and building relationships through kindness and compassion. During house meetings, the interns held weekly health education talks on topics such as navigating nutrition labels, portion control and smoking cessation. They built on their nutrition talks by creating informative posters and assisting the staff with healthy meal preparation. The interns also accompanied residents to appointments with health care providers to help empower the men to take control of their own health and to help them navigate the health care system. To improve the environment at My Brother’s House, Emily and Greg took part in the weekly neighborhood cleanup and renovated the upstairs porch to include new furniture and living plants, including flowers, tomatoes, peppers and herbs. The interns attempted to foster a sense of the community in the house with social events such as a trip to the Mütter Museum, walks to the park and holiday-themed parties. Emily remarked, “The time I have spent at My Brother’s House has been insightful and rewarding. I have enjoyed building meaningful relationships with the men, and I feel the experience has taught me to be able to relate to and connect with many different kinds of people. Working with the homeless population has helped me to learn to appreciate how difficult seemingly simple things, like going to a doctor’s appointment, can be for those who have not always had health care available to them. I believe I will be better prepared for my future career in medicine because of my experience.” Greg reflected, “Working with the men at My Brother’s House has continued to teach me about the plight of the underserved in urban areas. I was honored to spend time to befriend and learn about the men’s lives and offer what skills I had to benefit them and the house community. My time at My Brother’s House has allowed me to see and experience a variety of health conditions firsthand and navigate the health care system and doctor-patient relationship from the patient’s perspective. I believe that my work this summer and its relationships will greatly benefit my future medical career.”

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Ready, Willing & Able to Get Healthy

Student Interns:
Jacob Britt, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine
Jessica Torres, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College

Academic Preceptors:
Joan I. Gluch, PhD, RDH, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine
Maria Hervada-Page, MSS, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College

Community Preceptor:
Mark Atwood, Ready, Willing & Able

The Community Site:
Ready, Willing & Able is a transitional housing provider using a comprehensive approach to tackling homelessness that includes providing paid work, vocational training, adult basic education, job placement, social support services and lifelong graduate services. The facility houses 70 residents. To graduate, trainees must meet three stringent criteria: full-time employment, independent housing and maintenance of a sober lifestyle. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Access to Health Care; Heart Disease and Stroke; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
As health interns, Jake and Jess assessed the health issues faced by the Ready, Willing & Able (RWA) trainees and developed creative ways to address those issues. The interns used a multifaceted approach that focused on health education, advocacy, and promotion of healthy eating and exercise. Their weekly health education classes covered various topics including heart health, nutrition, men’s health, oral hygiene, exercise and preventive medicine. The interns promoted healthy lifestyle choices by working with the kitchen staff to make more healthful meals, holding exercise classes for the RWA trainees and putting the trainees in contact with health care providers. Jacob noted, “My experience at Ready, Willing & Able taught me a lot about myself, and in just seven weeks I was able to improve skills that will be vital as a future dental professional … such as public speaking, health communication and interdisciplinary teamwork, all while having a positive impact. Overall it was an awesome and unique experience that I will remember forever.” Jessica said, “This summer with BTG and Ready, Willing & Able has made a huge impact on my future career as a physician. There is no more valuable experience than working directly with an at-risk patient population over an extended period of time. I feel I will be better able to relate to my future patients, understand their current priorities and assess potential barriers to care. These skills will allow me to provide a more personalized, patient-centered medical plan of action, leading to improved compliance, a stronger doctor-patient relationship and, ultimately, healthier patients.”

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Healthy Choices, Healthy Lives: On the Path to Recovery

Student Interns:
Elise Paquin, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College
Katherine Wilhelmy, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College

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

Community Preceptor:
Brenee Brown, MS, Mercy Hospice

The Community Site:
Mercy Hospice provides transitional housing and support for women recovering from alcohol and drug addiction. The staff at Mercy provides educational and support groups for the women’s recovery, helps women find housing, offers job skills training, provides child-care support for women with children, and helps organize the 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

BTG Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Tobacco Use

The Project:
Elise and Katherine worked with the residents of Mercy Hospice to establish improved general health habits and to nurture the women’s interest in various constructive recreational activities. They presented sessions on nutrition, stress management, oral health and mental health. They offered outings to promote exercise, including walks to Washington Square and to a local community pool. In an effort to engage the women in a hobby and to provide them with time to interact and bond with one another, Elise and Katherine offered in-house classes in watercolor painting, knitting and poetry analysis. In addition, they organized educational trips to the Mütter Museum and to the Japanese House in Fairmount Park. The interns also worked closely with the young children living at Mercy Hospice, reading to them and working with them on simple arts and crafts projects, as well as giving them a brief, age-appropriate presentation on oral health and hygiene. Elise noted, “My outreach experiences to this point have centered primarily on patients struggling with issues of homelessness and addiction, but never before my time at Mercy Hospice have I had the opportunity to work with anyone over such a long period of time. Through this internship I have had a chance to really get to know the women, and I think that what I have learned about and from them will prove invaluable to me in my interactions with future patients. I am awed and inspired by the residents’ strength and commitment, and am grateful that they have so generously allowed me insight into their recovery process and their lives.” Katherine reflected, “The ladies of Mercy Hospice have taught me many things, both through words and actions. The residents have illustrated such courage during their recovery process, and their stories can only leave one filled with respect for their determination. I will be leaving this internship more aware of the obstacles women in recovery face, and I hope to continue to learn how best to serve these ladies throughout my career in medicine.”

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Homelessness Has a Face (Behind-the-Scenes Edition)

Student Interns:
Daniel Fichter, University of the Sciences, Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program
Richard Ngo, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program

Academic Preceptors:
Joanne Muir Behm, MSS, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Mary Kate McGinty, RPh, MS, University of the Sciences
Eugene Mochan, DO, PhD, FACOFP, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

Community Preceptor:
Angela Libby, MA, ATR-BC, Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center, Homeless Veteran Services

The Community Site:
The mission of the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center (PVMSEC), located in Center City, is to provide employment, training, related educational services, social and human services counseling and referrals to 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 the community. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Access to Health Care; Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Health Communication; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
Richard and Dan collaborated with Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center’s (PVMSC) clients to facilitate various discussion groups, educational presentations and leisure activities. They facilitated relevant presentations on medical topics, self-expression groups, book clubs and a nutrition group called Fun Food Fridays. All of these activities focused on building a foundation of knowledge for self-empowerment through constructive and open dialogue. The interns also held a weekly trivia game with the intent of assessing clients’ knowledge retention in a leisurely, fun, community context. They found client feedback to be an integral part of their experience and developed a suggestion box as a way to collect comments. Richard and Dan ended their time at the site by working with clients to create a narrative video on the subject of homelessness. Dan shared, “I found this experience to be invaluable … [in] enhancing my viewpoint of Philadelphia. Working with my partner, staff and clients has truly developed my outlook on client-centered processes and on how past experiences can shape a person’s current attitude, demeanor and personality. Most importantly, I learned the power of acceptance and recognition. Say ‘hi’ and smile.” Richard shared, “I came into this internship hoping for personal growth and to inspire others to make healthy lifestyle changes. … I found my voice in the internship with a series of presentations … titled “Relevant Medicine.” The idea was to tailor several topics … and simply present material that our clients may be exposed to one day. … [I] learned two invaluable lessons: how to better explain medical information … and that everyone wants to learn more about how to be healthy—but it’s best when they are empowered.”

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“None of Us Are Home Until All of Us Are Home”

Student Interns:
Haseeb Ahmad, Temple University, School of Podiatric Medicine
Sameh Girgis, Temple University, Kornberg School of Dentistry
Robert Hartley, Temple University, School of Medicine
Michelle Hebb, Temple University, College of Health Professions and Social Work, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Occupational Therapy Program
Brittainy Wierzbicki, Temple University, College of Health Professions and Social Work, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Occupational Therapy Program

Academic Preceptor:
Dianne Butera, MSW, Temple University, School of Medicine

Community Preceptors:
Robin Bonfield, MSW, Project H.O.M.E., Women of Change
Carolyn Crouch, MBA, Project H.O.M.E., Kairos House
Carly Ianuzzi, Project H.O.M.E.
Karen Orrick, Project H.O.M.E., Advocacy and Public Policy
Kitty Scott, Project H.O.M.E., Women of Change
Jennifer Yoder, Project H.O.M.E., St. Columba’s Safe Haven

The Community Site:
The mission of the Project H.O.M.E. community is to empower adults, children and families to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty, and to enable all of us to attain our fullest potential as individuals and as members of the broader society. Project H.O.M.E. offers a continuum of services. Women of Change is a 25-bed safe haven located in Center City for chronically homeless women with mental illness. St. Columba’s, located in West Philadelphia, serves chronically homeless men who also suffer from serious mental illnesses and some co-occurring drug use disorders. Kairos House, located in North Philadelphia, is a progressive-demand residence for men and women with a primary diagnosis of mental illness. An integral part of Project H.O.M.E. is the Advocacy and Public Policy Team’s commitment to education about the realities of homelessness and poverty along with a vigorous advocacy on behalf of and with homeless and low-income persons for more just and humane public policies. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Access to Health Care; Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Mental Health; Oral Health; Substance Abuse

The Project:
The interns worked with the Project H.O.M.E. staff and residents in providing education and resources needed to break the cycle of homelessness. They engaged the individuals in the various Project H.O.M.E. programs in discussions and education sessions on recovery and quality-of-life issues. Through everyday interactions and involvement in daily routine, Haseeb addressed healthy living habits with the men at St. Columba’s. Sameh provided educational sessions about the importance of general and oral health, hygiene and prevention of diseases for the men and women at Kairos House. Michelle collaborated with the staff and provided appropriate health promotion activities for the women at Women of Change. Robert and Brittainy worked with Project H.O.M.E.’s Advocacy and Public Policy Team. Haseeb noted, “The BTG internship has impacted me in a way that I did not initially think it would. Working with a population that I have never worked with before opened my eyes to a whole new world. I am grateful and very thankful that I had the opportunity to work in this internship.” Sameh said, “As I have always been interested in community health and public health-related issues, my participation as an intern in BTG this summer has helped me better understand the reasons behind my interest. … BTG gave me the opportunity to interact with underprivileged people. … This BTG experience has made me aware of the importance of providing free basic medical and dental treatments to underprivileged people in underserved areas.” Michelle commented, “This internship has allowed me to bridge a gap with the community that I never imagined. It has changed my outlook on life not only as a person, but as a professional student. … I’m forever grateful to the residents at Women of Change women’s homeless shelter, and honored to say that I was a part of such a great experience.” Robert noted, “My internship at Project H.O.M.E. gave me a better understanding of the prevalence and root causes of homelessness in Philadelphia. I also have begun to grasp some of the complex issues surrounding homelessness that greatly complicate ending it on a national level. My experience this summer emphasized how important it is to meet people where they are, which is an important lesson both in working with homeless people and in my future career.” Brittainy said, “The BTG internship has helped me to better understand the causes of homelessness and the solutions that can be enacted. It has made me more aware of the barriers to health care that people face, and I believe this will allow me to be a more knowledgeable and sensitive health care practitioner. I had a great summer experience working with Project H.O.M.E.”

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