BTG Hope

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Philadelphia Consortium Projects - 2013

Homeless & Transitional Housing

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A Holistic Approach to Wellness: Healthy Living in the Formerly Homeless

Student Interns:
Megan Fisher, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College
Daniel Kreider, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College

Academic Preceptors:
Rickie Brawer, PhD, MPH, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College
James D. Plumb, MD, MPH, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College

Community Preceptor:
Geoffrey Ng, 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.

BTG Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Heart Disease and Stroke; Mental Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Substance Abuse; Tobacco Use

The Project:
The BTG student interns addressed many of the My Brother’s House residents’ issues concerning health and wellness by providing health education and promoting healthy lifestyle changes on an individual and group basis. The interns provided weekly educational talks on nutrition and a balanced diet, managing and preventing diabetes, cardiovascular health and managing hypertension, oral hygiene, physical activity, and weight loss. The interns collaborated with the kitchen staff to provide more nutritious meals for the men by developing a well-balanced weekly menu, working within the budget to maximize fruits and vegetables and suggesting healthy alternative cooking techniques. They encouraged the residents to be more physically active by organizing a walking program using recently purchased pedometers, offering exercise suggestions and highlighting the health benefits of physical activity. In addition, they organized many activities and trips, including a wellness day at the local park that provided a healthy lunch and fun physical activities and established camaraderie between the interns and residents. Daniel states, “The Bridging the Gaps program provided a unique experience that allowed me to develop relationships with a population of formerly homeless men. This provided an exclusive perspective of the challenges and struggles facing the homeless population. Hearing the stories and interacting with these men will certainly have a positive influence on my future medical career. I now have a better understanding of the health challenges affecting the homeless and formerly homeless populations and have developed many skills to facilitate healing.” Megan reflects, “Working with the men at My Brother’s House has been a wonderful experience that will no doubt influence my future career. I have learned much more from them than I could have ever imagined, including the positive impact of establishing trusting relationships and the importance of recognizing the worth and dignity of each individual. Also, I now have a better understanding of ‘harm reduction’ as the initial approach to recovery from mental illness and substance abuse. With the proper support, I believe that recovery is truly possible, and I am hopeful that one day it will be the standard and not the exception.”

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Stress Is Out in This House: Covenant House Pennsylvania

Student Interns:
Zesheng Chen, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine
Abigail Gray, Drexel University, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Creative Arts in Therapy
Mallory Irons, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine
Shelby McLaughlin,Drexel University College of Medicine

Academic Preceptors:
Robert Chapman, PhD, Drexel University, College of Nursing and Health Professions
Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, 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:
The Covenant House Pennsylvania Crisis Center provides shelter and support for young adults aged 18 to 21. 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 an educational and vocational counseling and training program. Covenant House helps youth who are in transition maintain stability and offers guidance to keep them growing in a positive direction. The youth are expected to take on more responsibility, such as finding a job and completing educational goals, in preparation for their departure from Covenant House. 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:
Throughout this summer, the BTG student interns were primarily responsible for creating and implementing fun and educational activities for the residents at Covenant House Pennsylvania. The overall aim of the program was to offer healthy and productive ways to reduce stress. The team worked to achieve these goals by organizing activities focused on meditation, physical fitness and team building, as well as art projects and group discussions. Zesheng comments, “Throughout the BTG CHIP experience, the youth with whom we worked gave me much more than I could ever give them. Their perseverance, strength and sense of humor has shifted my perspective on the experience of homelessness. … Homelessness can happen to young people who have typical interests, values and goals. I believe that the BTG internship will help me be a more compassionate advocate for, and a more effective communicator with, people living marginalized experiences.” Abigail remarks, “Bridging the Gaps allowed me to understand the experiences of homeless urban youth from a closer vantage point. What I learned surprised me. Instead of fear, I witnessed courage; instead of limitation, I witnessed resourcefulness. In only a few weeks I have come to have great respect for both the humor and strength displayed by these young adults.” Mallory notes, “My Bridging the Gaps experience at Covenant House has strengthened my admiration and respect for homeless adolescents who persevere despite what most would consider insurmountable odds. I have been humbled and assured by the courageous and loving way in which residents and staff work together to better themselves, their health, spirit, and current situation. The opportunities that I’ve had this summer to engage with and learn from the Covenant House residents, as well as the other members of my team, will stay with me and inform my future career as a physician in the years to come.” Shelby comments, “In the beginning of Bridging the Gaps, I was hoping to make some kind of change within the community … but the major impact of this summer was the change of my perspective on the challenges and accomplishments of the homeless urban young adult population. I have greater admiration and respect for the resiliency and strength of these young adults. By working with interns from different disciplines than my own, I have learned about health issues and solutions from a new viewpoint. This experience has provided me with a foundation for my future work with this population as a physician.”

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Stability, Support and Hope

Student Interns:
Adira Riben, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson School of Health Professions, Occupational Therapy
Margie Strosser, Bryn Mawr College, Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research

Academic Preceptors:
Maria Hervada-Page, MSS, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College
Caryn Johnson, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson School of Health Professions, Occupational Therapy

Community Preceptor:
Kristine Jaeger, Mercy Hospice

The Community Site:
Founded in 1976 in Philadelphia by the Sisters of Mercy order, Mercy Hospice provides life-sustaining services to homeless women with addictions and their children. Through its residential program, Mercy Hospice provides transitional housing, case management, educational programming, child care and support for women as they recover from substance abuse, rebuild their lives and re-enter the community. In addition to the residential program, Mercy also provides hot meals seven days a week, showers three days a week, toiletries, clothing and case management to currently homeless women and children. Associated with Mercy Hospice, McAuley House provides specialized care for medically fragile homeless women. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas Adopted From HP2010 and HP2020:
Access to Health Care; Health Communication; Mental Health; Oral Health; Substance Abuse

The Project:
The goals of this BTG internship were to establish relationships with the Mercy Hospice residents and guests, encourage healthy behaviors and lifestyle choices, and create time for creative expression. The student interns introduced a mindfulness meditation breathing practice as a tool for reducing stress and staying emotionally balanced and facilitated journal/collage sessions to help women in recovery acknowledge and express their achievements. They also donated fresh flowers every week. The interns conducted health education tailored to the interests of the women and presented sessions on oral, cardiovascular and skin health. They created a resource information sheet for low-cost dental services and facilitated trips to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens and the Museum of Art. The interns also worked regularly in the kitchen and served food to homeless and near-homeless women in the community. Adira states, “Working at Mercy Hospice has given me an appreciation of the strength and humility that it takes to work in a caring profession — strength to remain grounded spiritually and mentally and humility to allow people to progress at their own pace. It has given me a better appreciation of the holistic needs we have as human beings — beyond food and shelter, we crave a sense of belonging and connection, a capacity for self-expression and a sense of purpose in our daily lives. This holistic understanding will help me as an occupational therapist to listen to my clients and meet their needs.” Margie comments, “The staff of Mercy Hospice, the residents and the ‘day guests’ have generously allowed me insight into the daunting and courageous process of recovery. I am more aware of the obstacles both the women and the staff who support them have to overcome. I hope to continue to learn empathy and how to best serve women like those I was privileged to meet at Mercy.”

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Veterans Helping Veterans

Student Interns:
Christopher Damiano, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program
Laurel Garber, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program

Academic Preceptor:
Ronald Allen, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Oliver Bullock, DO, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

Community Preceptor:
Jaclynn Ries, MS, Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center, The Perimeter

The Community Site:
The mission of The Perimeter is to provide coordinated and comprehensive services to military veterans by reducing barriers to successful transition and addressing needs for independent reintegration into the community. The Perimeter provides essential daily-living amenities, social and human services counseling, training, employment and referrals to outside services to less-fortunate veterans who are experiencing barriers reestablishing themselves as productive members of the community. 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:
The formal objectives of the BTG student interns at The Perimeter were to aid in the intake of clients, organize and run regularly scheduled recreational activities, develop a health education curriculum and serve as yet another general resource for the veterans. The interns also worked to establish trusting relationships with the veterans through casual conversation during meals and other daily activities. The interns’ recreational activities included trivia, bingo, karaoke, nature hikes, arts and crafts, and card games. The interns’ health discussions were based on topics requested by the veterans and the staff, such as cardiovascular health, oral health, smoking, physical fitness and nutrition. The ultimate goal of the interns was to work with the staff to further develop The Perimeter as a community environment in which the veterans can begin rebuilding their lives. Laurel remarks, “I came out of this internship with a deeper understanding of veterans and the homeless and underserviced population in general. It was extremely rewarding to interact with and befriend people I would normally never have had the chance to get to know. The clients at The Perimeter taught me things and opened my eyes to cultural issues that I may not have learned about in any other way. Overall, I strengthened my interpersonal skills and learned lessons that will help me with a diverse group of patients in the future.” Christopher comments, “Prior to medical school and my Bridging the Gaps experience, I studied public health from a very academic perspective. Volunteering at The Perimeter provided me with firsthand experience and a fuller understanding of the challenges and rewarding nature of working in underserved populations. More importantly, I spent a summer helping and establishing meaningful relationships with veterans, while learning lifelong lessons that will benefit my future career as a physician. Bridging the Gaps has also reinforced my desire to work in public health.”

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Health Promotion at Ready, Willing & Able

Student Interns:
Patrick Shock, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine
John Venetos, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptors:
Joan I. Gluch, PhD, RDH, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine
Mary Hess, PharmD, FASHP, FCCM, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptor:
Mark Atwood, Ready, Willing & Able, Inc.

The Community Site:
Ready, Willing & Able is a transitional housing provider with 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:
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Health Communication; Heart Disease and Stroke; Mental Health; Nutrition; Substance Abuse

The Project:
The BTG student interns worked on creating a useful health promotion and education program for the men participating in the Ready, Willing & Able (RWA) program. They did this by facilitating health-related sessions on Thursday evenings and by creating culturally appropriate pamphlets. The interns also met individually with the men who had specific medical questions and provided resources and advice to address health concerns. In addition, they worked alongside the staff and trainees in RWA’s Culinary Arts program to plan and prepare healthy meals for lunch and to display the positive nutritional information for each dish. Lastly, the interns provided oral health supplies for all the men and prescription discount cards for those who did not have insurance. Patrick notes, “I have felt very at home coming to Ready, Willing & Able. … This unique opportunity gave a better understanding of an array of backgrounds that I would not be exposed to if I had not participated in this program.” John remarks, “Ready, Willing & Able has opened my eyes to many health care related disparities that exist in society today. These past seven weeks have provided me with experiences that I will be able to carry with me and build upon throughout my health care profession.”

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