BTG Hope

"The BTG Program provides needed resources to the many thousands of community-based organizations that are working to create a more socially just and compassionate world. Because of their support, many nonprofits are able to reach and enrich the lives of many more people."
BTG Community Preceptor
Home >

New Jersey Projects

Back to Summaries by Region

Advocating for Healthy Eating in Camden, NJ

Student Interns:
Phyllis Huang, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Phuong Huynh, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptors:
Irina Grafova, PhD, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health
Sonia Garcia Laumbach, MD, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Community Preceptor:
Laura Sanchez, MSW, Camden Area Health Education Center (AHEC)

The Community Site:
Camden AHEC is dedicated to promoting health awareness in the community, particularly among the medically underserved, including the elderly, poor, youth, unemployed, homeless, uninsured and culturally diverse populations. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
HIV; Nutrition and Weight Status; Responsible Sexual Behavior; Substance Abuse

The Project:
Phuong and Phyllis explored the various programs in the Camden AHEC, but focused mainly on the evaluation of the farmers market. They performed outreach throughout downtown Camden, helped formulate the final draft of the customer survey that assessed the demographics and perceptions of the farmers market, administered the surveys at the market sites in downtown Camden and at Virtua Hospital, and analyzed data from the responses. Using the survey results, Camden AHEC can improve the farmers market in subsequent seasons and measure the impact of the farmers market on the population, among whom overweight, obesity and malnutrition are significant issues. Phyllis and Phuong also participated in the LifeWorks Syringe Access Program at AHEC, in which they assisted in the distribution of syringes, contraceptives and clean injection equipment at a site in South Camden. Through this program, participants can protect themselves from the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases while forming relationships with staff members and having the opportunity to get a referral for drug counseling and treatment. Phuong and Phyllis also observed HIV/AIDS support group sessions, helped perform senior health assessments, and gathered and researched health resources for the elderly. Phyllis noted, “Not only has this internship allowed me to understand the different facets of health care and its barriers, but it has also given me an opportunity to work with clients who must face these obstacles on a daily basis. Through this experience, I have been able to learn about and participate in the various programs and organizations offered to the community, exposure to which is not only recommended but essential for all health professionals so that we may become conduits to other resources and services that we ourselves cannot provide. In doing so, we will ensure that the patient’s overall well-being is truly the highest priority.” Phuong stated, “This internship has given me the opportunity to encounter and work with individuals from all walks of life. By witnessing the struggles that society can present, AHEC and other agencies alike are essential in the redevelopment of impoverished communities. As a future public health professional, I realize it is our responsibility to actively assess the issues of our communities and develop policies to support individual and community health efforts. Through regulation and maintenance of the services, these products are assured to reach those who are underserved.”

Back to Top

Camden Coalition Care Management Team: The Role of Health Coaches in Patient Care

Student Interns:
Sonya Vankawala, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Osteopathic Medicine
Razwana Wahdat, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Osteopathic Medicine

Academic Preceptor:
Timothy Dombrowski, DO, MPH, FACOI, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Osteopathic Medicine

Community Preceptor:
Kelly Craig, MSW, LSW, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers

The Community Site:
Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers is a citywide organization comprising social workers, nurses, physicians, administrators, hospitals, health services organizations and clinics that serve the health needs of Camden, New Jersey, residents. A care management team made up of a social worker, a nurse practitioner, and a medical assistant visits “high utilizer” patients’ homes to help them manage their own care and use primary care more frequently, thus keeping them out of Camden’s ERs and hospitals. The care management team can be thought of as an intermediary between the patient and the physician so there is a more fluid flow of communication to provide a greater quality of life for patients. 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; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status

The Project:
Sonya and Razwana worked with the care management team of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers (CCHP) to serve as health coaches and to develop a curriculum for future health coaches. A Camden Coalition health coach visits patients separately from the rest of the care management team to assess how well patients are doing in managing their health and to understand what difficulties seem to arise most frequently. The primary goal for a health coach is to assess the patient’s progress and the need for the care management team. Health coaches accomplish this goal by setting up home visits and hospital visits and making phone calls to patients to discuss their individual needs. Physicians or other health care agencies refer high-utilizing patients to the health coaches because they are thought to require greater assistance in managing their own health care. The coaches carefully track the medical history and current medical progress of each patient. The role of a health coach is not to act as a physician or nurse, but rather to help patients understand their doctors’ recommendations. Much of a health coach’s visit is carried out as a social visit—a visit to let patients know there are resources out there and people willing to help connect patients with those resources. These visits are often most valuable from a mental health point of view. Health coaches are looking to guide these patients in setting goals so they can learn to help themselves in a manner that is sustainable in their lifestyle. Sonya reflected, “Working as a health coach for the CCHP has given me a different perspective on the underserved community and patients who are often dismissed as ‘noncompliant.’ I truly believe that my experience with the CCHP will make me a better physician in the future. I have developed a greater understanding for patients. … Many times these patients just need a physician that listens to them, understands that their lives can be much more complicated than people can imagine, and allows them to be a part of managing their care. I plan to use the viewpoint I have gained as a health coach in practice as a future physician.” Razwana noted, “Working at the CCHP this summer has had a dramatic impact on my view on health care in impoverished cities such as Camden and on health care in general. By conversing with our patients I have gained invaluable insight into the point of view of the patient, into the hardships a physician may not even be able to fathom from the outside. I have learned that the obstacles facing health care are not at all simple and will require a widespread effort from professionals of all disciplines. As a future physician, I now know my role in this effort; I know that I can play an integral part in not only bettering the lives of my patients but also in influencing the policies these patients have to face to receive the health care they deserve.”

Back to Top

Project H.O.P.E.—Opportunities and Challenges in Providing Primary Care, Behavioral Health Counseling and Social Services to the Homeless

Student Interns:
Abdul Kareem AlObaidi, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health
Mallika Gupta, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptors:
Irina Grafova, PhD, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health
Marcia Sass, ScD, MSN, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
James Comstock, LCSW, ACSW, Project H.O.P.E. (Homeless Outreach Program Enrichment)

The Community Site:
Project H.O.P.E. (Homeless Outreach Program Enrichment) aims to improve the health and well-being of the homeless and individuals at risk of homelessness within the greater Camden, New Jersey, area by providing primary, preventive and related health care services. Bergen Lanning Health Center offers primary medical care and mental health and substance abuse counseling as well as referrals for housing, employment and other social services. The mobile health van travels throughout Camden to provide health screenings, outreach and referrals. A one-day-per-week satellite clinic at the Volunteers of America Aletha R. Wright Transitional Living Program provides physical exams and referrals for the residents of the program. 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.); HIV; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness; Responsible Sexual Behavior; Substance Abuse

The Project:
Mallika and Kareem worked with Project H.O.P.E. to assist in providing health education and outreach services for the homeless. They started by observing the doctors and counselors during service delivery, where appropriate. They also accompanied the outreach workers to tent cities, health fairs, farmers markets and other locations, learning about how the homeless navigate homelessness. They eventually staffed the outreach booth at the Friday farmers market in downtown Camden. There they answered questions, assessed needs, booked appointments for new and established patients, and provided referrals to other community agencies. The team also developed and conducted health education presentations and discussions in the waiting room on topics such as nutrition, exercise and heat stroke. The presentations were tailored to the concerns and constraints (economic, logistical, literacy) faced by the target audience. In addition, Mallika and Kareem assisted the administrative team in analyzing New Jersey’s licensure requirements for ambulatory care centers to assess the costs of a potential service site addition. They also recruited presenters and helped organize logistics for the annual National Health Center Week open house, videotaped and edited patient and clinician testimonials, and developed an hour-long lunch-and-learn seminar for invited community health providers on the health impacts of specific Islamic cultural mores. Kareem stated, “For me this is a very useful experience; I have been exposed to the most in-need community sector. The homeless people have various kinds of health (social and mental) problems that bring a lot of challenges to the community as whole. The work with the homeless has multiple dimensions and multiple levels for approach. As a new immigrant to the U.S., I also received an excellent experience about how the system works. … BTG bridged me from a faraway place to a new one in my professional history.” Mallika noted, “It seems that often, it’s just one unlucky break like unemployment, not a medical emergency, which triggers the slow slide towards ill health (physical and mental) and eventual homelessness. The miracle of this country is that the safety net exists and there are many people working very hard to help people survive. However, it’s been interesting to see how difficult it is to navigate the safety net (almost a maze). The ‘catch-22’ benefit requirements, the disjointed application processes and timelines, the lack of information and continuity between agencies and geographical distances between service sites create what appear to be unnecessary barriers for people who are already struggling.”

Back to Top

Health Education Initiatives in a Summer Camp Program

Student Interns:
Robert Gibson, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and School of Public Health
Dhaval Naik, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Osteopathic Medicine
Matthew Varner, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Academic Preceptors:
Joshua S. Coren, DO, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Osteopathic Medicine
Carl E. Hock, PhD, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Marcia Sass, ScD, MSN, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Andy Joshua, Urban Promise

The Community Site:
Urban Promise, located in Camden, New Jersey, supports and nurtures children, youth and young adults in under-resourced neighborhoods, seeking to encourage their long-term academic, social, spiritual, leadership and personal development by modeling healthy relationships, offering diverse opportunities, providing a variety of creative programs and sharing the principles of the Christian faith. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Health Communication; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
Dhaval, Matthew and Robert promoted long-term health and productivity through interactive health education during summer camp at Urban Promise. They helped students identify healthy practices and integrate these practices into their own lifestyles. The team used appropriate basic learning skills—reading, writing, logic/reasoning and hand-eye coordination—to promote health education and integrate these skills into daily lesson plans. Their goal was not just to inform or present information, but also to help students incorporate the information and practices into their own lives so they are healthier individuals, not just better informed individuals. Matthew commented, “I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity that BTG provided me by allowing me to intern at Urban Promise. Although I have worked in Camden before, this particular internship opened my eyes to the obstacles and hardships that children in underprivileged areas face. I believe that every student at UMDNJ should take advantage of what BTG offers. This program allowed me to interact with individuals from different backgrounds and cultures and provided me with invaluable lessons that will benefit me for the rest of my life.” Dhaval noted, “I feel very privileged to be part of the BTG program. … I not only enjoyed teaching kids but also learned a great deal from them. I had a great time teaching middle school students about health-related topics. I will definitely encourage my underclassmen to participate in BTG.” Robert said, “For me, the opportunity to participate in the BTG Program (via Urban Promise) was all about reciprocity. As someone who grew up in the challenging climate of a disadvantaged socioeconomic environment, the chance to work with children who face these same challenges today was more than gratifying; it was necessary. Every day that I had the chance to interact with the students we served was almost as if I was teaching a young me, and I loved every minute of me. I truly appreciate the opportunity to have participated in such an experience and will use this as further motivation to serve those who I represent.”

Back to Top

Urban Gardening: A Contribution to Better Health

Student Interns:
Sushanna Fogarty, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health
Ebele Okafor, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptor:
Lois Grau, PhD, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Michelle Robinson, Greater Newark Conservancy

The Community Site:
Greater Newark Conservancy seeks to educate, train and support communities in creating environmentally safe neighborhoods through grassroots education and training, community organizing, preservation and improvement of open space, revitalization and beautification, training, and economic development. The guiding principle is to encourage and highlight community empowerment, pride and self-sufficiency. View Community Partner Web Site

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Environmental Health; Health Communication; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
At the Greater Newark Conservancy, Sushanna and Ebele researched various topics, including nutrition, organic gardening, health benefits of foods grown in the site’s garden and high-risk diseases in relation to garden plants. They developed fact sheets, food recipes and workshop lessons based on these topics. Sushanna and Ebele were also involved in community projects such as providing nutrition lessons in a high school and participating in community gardening and community workshops on organic gardening and rainwater harvesting. Ebele noted, “My BTG experience at Greater Newark Conservancy provided me with a lot of insight on healthy eating and on nutrition facts. … This has affected my personal eating pattern positively. I’ve come to realize that nutrition contributes largely to a healthy society; therefore, I believe that all should be involved in the promotion of urban farming so as to expose our community to more healthy food choices.” Sushanna said,The BTG program has impacted my professional development by allowing me to improve my skills in the development of materials, research for health resources and the planning of educational health presentations. Personally it has also allowed me to gain insight on nutritional values, improved my understanding of nutrition fact labels, encouraged me to try healthier recipes, and made me more conscious of fruit intake and the benefits of eating healthier.”

Back to Top

Developing and Providing Health Information to Spanish- and English-Speaking Teens and Adults

Student Interns:
Arooj Akhtar, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health
Gadiz Garcia, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health
Daniel Ramos, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Academic Preceptors:
Sonia Garcia Laumbach, MD, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Bernadette West, PhD, MA, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Public Health

Community Preceptors:
Susan Giordano, Homeless and Indigent Population Health Outreach Project (HIPHOP)
Samantha Kuncken, LCADC, New Hope Foundation

The Community Site:
Open Door, Inc., located in New Brunswick, New Jersey, provides treatment to individuals dealing with alcohol, drug and gambling addictions. Open Door strives to promote a lifestyle of abstinence and sobriety, shadowing programs such as Alcoholics, Narcotics and Gamblers Anonymous. Catering to an array of ages from adolescents to adults, Open Door integrates healthy values alongside recovery to enable responsible behavior in the individual. Services offered include addiction services, drug rehab, detoxification, treatment, aftercare and adolescent services.

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Health Communication; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Substance Abuse; Tobacco Use

The Project:
Arooj, Daniel and Gadiz worked with Open Door and Homeless and Indigent Population Health Outreach Project (HIPHOP-RWJMS). The interns conducted a series of adult and adolescent health workshops designed to be implemented in Spanish and English. The workshops for both populations explored alcohol and how it affects the liver, nutrition, the relationship between tobacco and the lungs, and how drugs affect the brain. These workshops were modified for future use by HIPHOP volunteers to address issues specifically of interest to the substance-abusing population. The team also performed community outreach activities at the Eric B. Chandler Health Center and Elijah’s Promise. Gadiz stated, “BTG has been a unique and interesting experience. I learned that the field of public health is very complex and challenging to work in. This program helped me realize that there are many complicated barriers to helping those in need at the community level.” Daniel noted, “BTG has been an insightful program that has given me an opportunity to learn about the troubles underlying my community. Before I started interning, I must say that I was a bit naïve with regard to the prevalence of substance abuse in New Brunswick. … By the end of this program, not only was I more aware of the huge prevalence of substance use in my community, but I also gained important tools that are essential to have when working with individuals who abuse. These tools will be … of great use especially during my professional life as a physician.” Arooj said, “BTG allowed me to witness an array of populations that are victim to substance abuse in New Jersey. The experience highlighted various issues facing the population and the struggle faced during everyday life. The experience provided me with a greater insight into the treatment and recovery phases faced by individuals dealing with addictions.”

Back to Top

Hope Community Outreach Center: Uplifting Whitman Park from the Inside Out

Student Interns:
Amrita Batheja, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and School of Public Health
Maryanne Yacoub, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Osteopathic Medicine

Academic Preceptors:
Millicent Channell, DO, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Osteopathic Medicine
Carl E. Hock, PhD, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Community Preceptor:
Sylvester Servance, JD, MBA, Hope Community Outreach Center

The Community Site:
Hope Community Outreach Center (HCOC) provides programs that give neighborhood youth positive alternatives to the lure of fast money and an illicit lifestyle. From the Computer Literacy program to the Food Pantry program, HCOC plays an important role in the lives of Camden residents of all ages. HCOC believes its programs have rescued many lives from the stark reality of crime and incarceration. View Community Partner Web Site
www.Hopecoc.org

Bridging the Gaps Focus Areas Adopted from HP2010 and HP2020:
Access to Health Care; Environmental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
Amrita and Maryanne worked with infants, young children and the elderly in the safe, nurturing environment of the Hope Community Outreach Center. The interns’ main focus was to educate young children in math and English, promote physical activity and accompany the youth on weekly field trips. They also assisted in completing weatherization applications for community members, attended community meetings and assisted an elderly woman in obtaining Medicare insurance. Maryanne stated, “Serving the community of Camden, NJ, was an enlightening and eye-opening experience for me. I learned so much from the community members I interacted with at Hope Community Outreach Center. I gained a lot of knowledge that is not taught in classrooms. … I have always wanted to work as a doctor in an underserved community, and BTG helped me see how an interdisciplinary approach to service is imperative and is more beneficial than one doctor or one social worker working to make a difference.” Amrita noted, “Serving Camden, NJ, through Hope Community Outreach Center has been a priceless experience. Through the center’s connections … the people in the community came to trust us with the care of their children, allowed us into their homes to aid in weatherization applications or food delivery, and even sought advice from us on how to receive better health care. The center allowed us to help individuals one at a time with the hope that by improving the lives of a few, it will start to transform the way the community sees itself as a whole. By taking pride in their community and its members, there will be more motivation to keep it a safe and healthy place to live.”

Back to Top

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

BTG Photo Gallery BTG Video Archives