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Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey Projects - 2016

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Living With Mental Illness, One Healthy Choice at a Time

Student Interns:
Omowunmi Adedeji, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Brandon Roberson, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Academic Preceptors:
Sonia Garcia Laumbach, MD, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
David E. Swee, MD, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Community Preceptor:
Michael Swerdlow, PhD, Integrated Health Services, Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services

The Community Site:
Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services was established in 1970 with the goal of rehabilitating people with mental illness and paving a path for their recovery. It also aims to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Bridgeway helps people with mental illness to fully integrate back into society by assisting them in a myriad ways, ranging from PACT (Program for Assertive Community Treatment) team home visits to a partial-care day facility. The partial-care facility holds daily group sessions on topics such as healthy living and recovering from substance abuse. Bridgeway also focuses on social skills improvement, job preparation and creative outlets for the people served. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Tobacco Use

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns developed and led a series of health-related small group workshops. There were two sets of workshops—one on smoking cessation and one on healthy lifestyle changes. The interns developed a survey to identify cigarette smokers who wished to quit; those who did became members of the smoking cessation group. The health workshops covered topics ranging from oral health and diet to exercise and budgeting for groceries. Using a combination of knowledge obtained from medical school and curriculums developed by leading researchers in the field of psychology, the interns aimed to inform and learn from the clients served by Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services. The interns also planned a healthy snacking initiative to reduce the number of sugary beverages purchased and consumed by the clients served by Bridgeway. This initiative included the introduction of fresh fruit-infused water at the location where the interns worked. Last, the interns shadowed/observed multiple counselors, social workers, nurse practitioners and an on-site psychiatrist.

Personal Statements:
Brandon said, “This summer was truly an amazing, eye-opening experience, to say the least. Participating in something completely new to me and working with an unfamiliar population was one of the best learning experiences I have had in my 20-something years of life. Reflecting back on this internship I can say that I have grown as a person, and I know that this experience will positively affect my character in the future as a physician.” Omowunmi said, “I was excited to participate in the BTG CHIP summer internship at the Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services site in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a program that provides support to people with mental health disorders. We learned a lot from the persons served at Bridgeway, as well as through our interaction with the counselors. This experience exposed me to the different stigmas people with mental health issues face, how their problems can be addressed, and how we can help advocate for them as future physicians.”

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Quality Improvement in Camden Primary Care

Student Interns:
Anna-Kaye Brown, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine
Paras Patel, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine
Ajay Rajshekar, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine
Diana Vargas, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine

Academic Preceptors:
Rebecca C. Moore, DO, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine
Aubrey M. Olson, DO, MSEd, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine
Samantha M. Plasner, DO, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine
Meagan W. Vermeulen, MD, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine

Community Preceptor:
Kaiya Harris, BS, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers

The Community Site:
The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the quality, capacity, coordination and accessibility of the health care system for all residents of Camden. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Health Care; Elder Health and Senior Quality of Life; Health Communication; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Mental Health

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked with the Clinical Redesign Initiatives team at the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers. Specifically, the interns developed a patient satisfaction survey in two languages (English and Spanish) and administered the surveys to patients at primary care offices in Camden. The surveys focused on the patient experience at a specific office and gave patients a medium to voice their thoughts; they also collected demographic information such as race, gender and age. The interns developed a method of data entry and analysis of the surveys to gain insight into what barriers patients had to overcome in order to receive quality health care.

Personal Statements:
Ajay said, “Working in Camden has been an enlightening experience. … Going and talking to patients in primary care offices has enabled me to overcome my shyness, and that will definitely be something I can take moving forward. I am glad to have had an opportunity to play a small role in helping the city of Camden.” Paras said, “The BTG experience has given me a new understanding of our health care, especially in economically disadvantaged cities like Camden. Communicating with and hearing the stories of Camden’s residents, both immigrants and non-immigrants, has shown me the difficulties often faced by those without access or limited access to services I often take for granted. I’ve been able to step back and think about the physical, mental and emotional sickness that patients face before I come to any conclusions about them. I can’t thank the BTG program and Camden Coalition enough for giving me this opportunity to both learn about and give back.” Anna-Kaye said, “Participating in the Bridging the Gaps program has raised my awareness of the health care challenges in New Jersey and deepened my understanding of the public health organizations, resources and efforts that collectively aim to address these issues. It was a great privilege to engage with the residents of Camden and witness firsthand the social challenges they face and the shortfalls of health care delivery. This experience has also put my future role as an osteopathic physician into perspective and has reinforced my sense of social responsibility to my community and future patients. Thank you BTG and the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers for providing me with this opportunity!” Diana said, “Working in Camden with the BTG program has been an incredibly eye-opening yet rewarding experience. Not only did I learn about the intricacies of our health care system, particularly state-funded insurance, I also gained a lot of insight from patients and their experiences navigating the system. Many of these experiences presented with an underlying commonality of patients feeling insignificant, and it helped put many things into perspective regarding my own life experiences. These patient experiences have deeply resonated with me and will leave a lasting impression on me as a future physician, especially knowing that small things that are actually in my control, like attitude and compassion, can make the world of a difference to a patient feeling lost in a system.”

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Addressing the Opiate Epidemic and the Increase in Panhandling in New Brunswick

Student Interns:
Joyce Nwoko, Rutgers School of Public Health
Ajan Sivaramamoorthy, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Academic Preceptors:
Sonia Garcia Laumbach, MD, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Qingyu Meng, PhD, Rutgers School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Yvette Molina, Director of Community Services, Elijah’s Promise

The Community Site:
Elijah’s Promise began as a volunteer-run soup kitchen serving the hungry in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and has since expanded into a social enterprise, providing jobs and training opportunities for impoverished and underrepresented people. Elijah’s Promise prepares thousands of delicious, nutritious meals each year and provides the hungry with access to fresh, quality food, because all people should have access to good food. In addition to providing healthy food to the community, Elijah’s Promise connects low-income individuals and families with social and health services. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Health Care; Health Communication; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Substance Abuse

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked with the directors of Elijah’s Promise in developing a survey to collect demographic information on the clients, understand their perspective on the opiate epidemic and the increase in panhandling in the community, and assess the services provided by Elijah’s Promise. The survey was administered to 120 clients, and the interns used the data to create a report on ways Elijah’s Promise can improve access to social services. In addition to working on the survey, the interns facilitated a workshop on the signs of opiate overdose and Narcan (a medication used to reverse a heroin/opioid overdose) for the clients at Elijah’s Promise.

Personal Statements:
Ajan said, “I am very glad I had the opportunity to participate in the Bridging the Gaps program. This experience has given me a genuine understanding of who the homeless are and how homelessness impacts their lives. I believe that the insight I have gained from working with the clients and staff at Elijah’s Promise will help me become a more understanding physician in my future clinical encounters.” Joyce said, “BTG CHIP was a wonderful professional experience. There is nothing more fulfilling for me [than] to be able to give back to my community and discover some of the challenges facing my community. … From my interaction with most of the homeless, the experiences they disclosed involved loss, abuse and neglect, and many of the homeless feel that they have been let down by every system and person that was supposed to protect them. These individuals have learned to navigate the complex systems on their own and have found ways to survive and cope with the overwhelming challenges of street life. The most challenging experience I had was watching people I genuinely care about make decisions you wish they didn’t—decisions about substance use, housing, etc. and a million other things that you can clearly see are going to have negative consequences.”

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Working Together Against HIV/AIDS and Homelessness and Achieving a Healthier City

Student Interns:
Ifeoluwa Aridegbe, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Nonye Edoh, Rutgers University, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptors:
Karen Lin, MD, MS, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Adana Llanos, PhD, MPH, Rutgers University, School of Public Health

Community Preceptors:
Manuel Castaneda, New Brunswick Tomorrow (NBT)
Melissa Mascolo, MA, Making It Possible to End Homelessness (MIPH)

The Community Site:
Imani Park, founded in 2004 in Edison, New Jersey, is a 16-unit transitional housing program that provides housing, case management and psychosocial support services for homeless single adults and families in which at least one family member is living with HIV/AIDS. Residents pay 30% of their total gross income monthly and may reside at Imani Park from 6 to 24 months before transitioning to permanent housing. The program offers regular workshops on self-development, self-sufficiency, health, wellness, housing and peer-to-peer HIV/AIDS support. It also provides on-site individual and group-level intervention as well as community-based case management. View Community Partner Web Site

New Brunswick Tomorrow is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the people of New Brunswick and moving them forward. By fostering public and private networks of individuals and community organizations, the organization identifies and responds to community needs. Recently, it developed the “Live Well – Vivir Bien New Brunswick” mobile application and website, and engaged in a city-wide campaign to create awareness and inspire New Brunswick residents to actively engage with locally available health and wellness resources/services. The campaign features five main focus areas: Eat Well, Feel Well, Move Well, Be Well and Be Safe. Its goal is to improve quality of life and health outcomes. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Health Care; HIV/AIDS; Injury and Violence Prevention; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
At Imani Park, the Bridging the Gaps student interns developed a survey asking residents what their needs were and in what areas they needed help, in terms of their personal goals and wellness. The interns had both individual and group discussions with the residents about obstacles they face in achieving their health needs and offered counseling and health advice, especially on stress management. They participated in community activities such as gardening with the residents, encouraging them to grow their own food and eat healthfully. Additionally, the interns held Mommy and Me sessions with the nursing mothers living at the facility, offering information on the Safe to Sleep campaign and sudden infant death syndrome. At New Brunswick Tomorrow, the interns were engaged in advocacy meetings on domestic violence and safe housing. They made calls to partners and stakeholders in the Healthier New Brunswick Initiative, enlightening them about the Live Well–Vivir Bien New Brunswick campaign and mobile application; the campaign’s aim is to unify local efforts that promote health, wellness and health care. They also scheduled presentations with some of the partners and participated in the presentations.

Personal Statements:
Nonye said, “I had a very rewarding experience with the Bridging the Gaps summer internship and I am grateful for the opportunity. Working at Imani Park and New Brunswick Tomorrow has given me practical experience of Public Health, how vast and complex health care is and how various factors and disciplines relate with each other to affect health. Small steps taken together can yield huge results” Ifeoluwa said, "My experiences these past several weeks have been enriching. My partner and I had the unique opportunity of being able to work at two community sites, Imani Park and New Brunswick Tomorrow. My time at Imani Park clarified certain misconceptions I had about the homeless population and helped me understand the meticulous process homeless individuals undergo to establish stable housing. Working with the staff at New Brunswick Tomorrow helped me interact with a community that I had previously only walked through to get to my undergraduate classes. At both sites, I appreciated the emphasis on healthy eating and lifestyles and their active involvement in the community. I will cherish these community outreach opportunities and am grateful for the diverse experiences the Bridging the Gaps program was able to provide me this summer.

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Eat Healthy, Stay Fit – Middlesex County

Student Interns:
Nilifa DeSilva, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Annie Truss, Rutgers University, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Academic Preceptors:
Joyce G. Afran, MD, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Irina Grafova, PhD, Rutgers University, School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Susan Stephenson-Martin, MS, CD/N, Middlesex SNAP-Ed/EFNEP

The Community Site:
New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) is a collaboration of public and private businesses, nonprofit organizations, voluntary health agencies (e.g., the American Cancer Society), trade organizations, faith-based organizations, and government agencies whose mission is to provide nutrition education and increase food security of New Jersey's limited-resource population. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns served as health educators in various settings throughout Middlesex County. The interns worked through the New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) Faithfully Fit program to enhance nutrition education and healthy lifestyle choices at places of worship in New Brunswick and Perth Amboy. The main focus at these Faithfully Fit events was to decrease sugary beverage consumption to reduce the risk of obesity and tooth decay in the community. The interns also developed and implemented an interactive, nutritionally focused curriculum for children attending New Brunswick Tomorrow’s Youth Soccer Camp, Municipal Alliance Prevention Summer Day Camp, Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools, and Raritan Bay YMCA Cooking Camp. Children aged 5 to 14 participated in behaviorally focused, learner-driven workshops to promote the importance of staying fit and developing healthy habits at a young age.

Personal Statements:
Annie said, “Working hand in hand with the community through Bridging the Gaps has undeniably paved the way for my future career in medicine. Whether working with the oldest of the population or the youngest, I have a new understanding for the daily struggles each individual faces and the utmost respect for those seeking to make a change. This internship has given me the tools needed to identify with all of my future patients and appreciate how to better serve their needs.” Nilifa said, “I’m so glad I got to be a part of the BTG CHIP program. It was an amazing experience for me especially because I am new to this country. It was astonishing to see the situation of homelessness and poverty in a country this developed. I’m happy I could reach out to a few of the many people who really need our help. Back in India, I was a dentist and would work on making people smile better, and here, I work to bring a smile on their face. I’m so happy I chose to do my master’s in public health; BTG has shown me why. This internship has motivated me to further my career in the field of public health. It has not only helped me professionally, but also affected me as a person. I feel fortunate to have been a part of this wonderful program and will cherish the memories I made with BTG forever.”

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Rutgers Children’s Summer Program Comes to Newark

Student Interns:
Anam Khan, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Veenat Parmar, Rutgers University, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptors:
Bernadette Callahan Hohl, PhD, MPH, Rutgers School of Public Health
Teri E. Lassiter, PhD, MPH, Rutgers School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Cindy Sickora, DNP, RN, Director, Jordan and Harris Community Health Center

The Community Site:
Established in 2010, the Jordan and Harris Community Health Center provides comprehensive health services to residents of Stephen Crane, Hyatt Court, Pennington Court and Terrell Homes public housing facilities in Newark. It is a nurse-managed program designed by and for the community it serves. A community advisory board helps guide the center’s operations, and a community health worker program trains residents to serve as advocates and health navigators for their neighbors. Rutgers School of Nursing collaborates on this program with the New Jersey Medical School and the School of Health Related Professions to provide a variety of health services. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Achievement/Literacy; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Substance Abuse

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked with children aged 5 to 14 living in public housing developments in Newark, New Jersey. They led educational activities and games related to health and academic subjects for seven weeks. The interns were involved in community outreach at various sites and in distributing informational pamphlets about the Jordan and Harris Community Health Center and information on the summer camp program. They developed their own versions of Jeopardy, bingo, and memory games with a health theme and created informational flyers on hand washing, oral health, mosquito bites, and numerous other health and educational topics. The interns also provided information on oral health and distributed much-needed oral health supplies to residents.

Personal Statements:
Anam said, “The BTG experience has been an eye-opener for me. I was exposed to various individuals, each with a different back story. Working in an underprivileged community allowed me to gain insights on how individuals struggle to survive in conditions of poverty. This makes me think about my professional future and how I would like to contribute my efforts to improving health outcomes in poorer communities.” Veenat said, “The BTG program broadened my experience in working with vulnerable populations. I was amazed to find out that some of the children have never even left the city of Newark. I enjoyed working with the children because it revealed how interested they are in academics and how knowledgeable they are about their surroundings—more so than I was at their age. I observed inequalities like a lavish park with several courts/fields, but access to these resources was limited. The children were not able to use these resources because outside programs have taken over the fields. The BTG program improved my understanding of the hardships residents of poorer communities face.”

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