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Philadelphia Consortium Projects - 2017

Homeless & Transitional Housing

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My Brother’s Health: Mind and Body

Student Interns:
Alice Liu, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Megan Sharp, Thomas Jefferson University, College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy

Academic Preceptors:
Maria Hervada-Page, MSS, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Caryn Johnson, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, Thomas Jefferson University, College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy
George P. Valko, MD, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Community Preceptor:
Misty Sparks, 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

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Chronic Disease; Health Communication; Heart Disease and Stroke; Mental Health; Preparedness

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Bethesda Project, My Brother’s House, created and presented health lessons on topics relevant to the residents, including heart health, stress relief, emergency preparedness, oral health, hygiene and sleep habits. Additionally, they assisted in administrative tasks such as creating the food menu, creating an organizational system for the donations closet, and allocating food and resources. The interns facilitated creative expression as a stress relief outlet through artistic activities and the Heart Smart project. They built close relationships with residents through one-on-one conversations and promoted engagement between residents through games, a Fourth of July celebration, and field trips to the Mütter Museum and the Heart Smart event. By engaging in these activities and providing a listening ear to residents and staff, the interns promoted open communication and trust within the community.

Personal Statements:
Alice said, “My biggest takeaway from my experience at My Brother’s House is the unforgettable relationships we built with the residents, who taught us lessons about kindness, resilience and relating to one another despite our differences. I also gained invaluable insight into how the intersection of homelessness and mental illness creates considerable barriers to every aspect of living, and how essential it is for health care providers to advocate for their patients because health and well-being are ultimately holistic endeavors. As a provider, I will draw upon my experiences to remind myself that every person has a story outside of what’s in the patient chart and that it can be incredibly elucidative to just stop and listen.” Megan said, “During my time at MBH, I learned to consider each resident in the context of their past and present, but most importantly to consider them in the context of their future as they prepare to move out and onto the next step in their lives. As a health care student it is much too easy to fall into the trap of believing that every person within a specific population is the same, and this experience has been an incredible reminder that each individual has unique experiences and personalities. I have been inspired by the resilience and motivation of MBH’s residents despite innumerable obstacles and hope to carry these experiences with me as a future occupational therapy practitioner as I address barriers faced by a variety of clients.”

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Covenant House 2017: Building Futures off of Love and Resilience

Student Interns:
Tiffany Cole, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine
Megan Guntrum, Drexel University College of Medicine
Gabi Im, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine
Souci Louis, University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine

Academic Preceptors:
Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Joan I. Gluch, PhD, RDH, PHDHP, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine
Brittany T. Watson, VMD, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine
Vincent Zarro, MD, PhD, Drexel University College of Medicine

Community Preceptor:
David V. Reis, 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 (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Health Communication; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked in the Education/Vocation Department of Covenant House, where they conducted the CHOICES class for new residents, working closely with each one to teach them professional skills such as résumé writing and interviewing. When not leading class, they organized the boutique, a room containing professional clothing for the residents to try on and keep. In addition, the interns ran multiple health-related seminars on-site for the residents, reviewing topics of oral health, money management, veterinary health, disease transmission and nutrition. They also coordinated an on-site visit by the PennSmiles dental bus to provide free treatments to residents. Off-site, the interns invited residents to the Bridging the Gaps Heart Smart reception and the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and on a tour of the Mütter Museum.

Personal Statements:
Tiffany said, “Our society suffers from ‘other-ing.’ When we, as a society, see the poor, the destitute, the marginalized and the underserved, we find comfort in identifying ways that they are not like us, to justify how their unfortunate circumstances could never fall upon ourselves. It’s this ‘other-ing’ phenomenon that is so toxic to social progress, and it’s through my experience at Covenant House that I’ve come to understand truly how artificial and downright false this ‘other-ing’ can be. During my time here, I’ve found more commonalities than differences and more shared values than conflicting between myself and the young residents under our care. It’s this perspective of same-ness that I hope to carry over to my future practice as a medical provider to allow my patients to be seen as they truly deserve to be seen.” Megan said, “I feel honored to have learned from a group of kindhearted, resilient and motivated individuals as they work their way to better lives. Society has taught us to make snap judgments about people. However, in doing so we miss the deeper person, underneath the labels, who has been molded by their experiences and has a unique perspective to provide. Just like the residents, each one of my patients will be complex individuals. My goal is to understand my patients as they truly are and help them utilize their inner strengths to form and execute a treatment plan that works for them.” Gabi said, “Working at Covenant House provided me with an honest, unfiltered, undoctored look into lives of youth in circumstances I’ve never had to face myself. I began seeing more than just faces of homeless youth; I saw intricate stories and experiences, some intensely beautiful and others deeply traumatizing, all culminating into one life. The development of this understanding has consequently expanded my capacity for compassion, a quality that will definitely make me a better health care practitioner in the future. Every day I was able to witness disparities among marginalized populations, and every day I am fueled by these disparities to continue working in the public health realm.” Souci said, “My experience at Covenant House has been one of the most enlightening and fulfilling opportunities I have ever had. While learning how to build meaningful relationships with the residents, I developed a deeper sense of compassion and insight for the adolescent population. I have been motivated by the strength and resilience of these individuals, and I will carry that strength with me as I bridge the gap between veterinary medicine and human medicine in the interest of public health. The struggles and challenges the residents face are representative of the larger issues that exist within our society. This sobering realization inspires me to rise and exceed the challenges we face as people in our collective future.”

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Addressing the Needs of Homeless Individuals During Their Stay in Transitional and Supportive Housing

Student Interns:
Jacob Chung, Drexel University College of Medicine
Mark Killen, Drexel University College of Medicine

Academic Preceptor:
Vincent Zarro, MD, PhD, Drexel University, College of Nursing and Health Professions

Community Preceptors:
Michelle Abbruzzese, MSS, Depaul House
Shannon Morgan, MSS, St. Raymond’s House

The Community Site:
Depaul USA consists of Depaul House and St. Raymond’s House. Depaul USA provides services for homeless men and women, including basic shelter services, weekly case management, connections to employment, health education, behavioral health therapy, financial literacy and budgeting, and peer support with a focus on preventive strategies through a recovery-oriented system of care. Depaul House also provides respite care for men who are frequent emergency room users. The respite helps to stabilize the individual and work with him to obtain permanent housing. St. Raymond’s House opened in October 2015 and provides permanent housing for homeless individuals with chronic health conditions. Services include case management, assistance with employment, and weekly health and wellness activities. All services are delivered using the harm-reduction approach within a trauma-informed, strengths-based and holistic environment. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Health Care; Disabilities Conditions; Educational Advancement/Literacy; Mental Health; Preparedness

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Depaul USA led weekly exercise and mindfulness classes to address both physical and mental health issues that many residents face. The interns worked with individuals to help with career-building activities, including résumés, cover letters, job searches, interview preparation and wardrobe preparation. The interns also helped individuals with social and medical needs, including applying for benefits and accompanying them to doctor’s appointments. The interns also assisted in other ways, including tending to gardens and preparing meals.

Personal Statements:
Jacob said, “My experience at St. Raymond’s introduced me to the complicated barriers the homeless population faces while trying to maintain their health. Whether it was through difficulties accessing proper preventative medical care through regular PCP visits or difficulties finding proper diet while managing chronic health conditions like diabetes, I saw many different challenges the homeless population faced in their struggle for wellness. I also became more aware of the different problems that these individuals experienced that led to their homelessness. It was very interesting to learn about how different factors such as substance abuse, incarceration and mental illness contribute to causing homelessness in a marginalized population. As I learned more about homelessness, I realized how closely connected these problems are to one’s socioeconomic status and poverty level. I am grateful for the opportunity to become more aware of problems surrounding homelessness and the homeless population’s daily struggles. I hope to carry the lessons learned through this experience to better address and understand the most vulnerable population’s medical concerns in the future.” Mark said, “This experience has provided me with the opportunity to glimpse into the world of homelessness to hear and see the individual stories, societal disparities and life experiences that have led to individuals entering transitional housing. Through this process, I have been able to be a part of and lend a helping hand in the lives of these individuals as they work to obtain jobs, housing and any social needs that they may have. By having this experience, I will go further into my medical career with an understanding of many of the factors that lead to homelessness, and I will be equipped with skills that are necessary to meeting and understanding the needs of individuals from an often stigmatized and marginalized group.”

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Mental and Physical Health Across Generations

Student Interns:
Megan Feick, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Nicolette Lee, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Victoria Stevenson, Thomas Jefferson University, College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy

Academic Preceptors:
Rickie Brawer, PhD, MPH, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Caryn Johnson, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, Thomas Jefferson University, College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy
James D. Plumb, MD, MPH, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Community Preceptor:
Barbara Coleman, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries

The Community Site:
Mercy Neighborhood Ministries of Philadelphia, Inc., located in the Nicetown-Tioga section of North Philadelphia, is a faith-based community center. Mercy provides child care services such as Head Start, preschool, before- and after-school care, and a nine-week summer day camp to children from pre-K through eighth grade. In addition, they provide adult day care for adults who are unable to complete daily self-care activities independently or who desire companionship. Mercy Neighborhood Ministries also provides GED classes. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Elder Health and Senior Quality of Life; Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being; Heart Disease and Stroke; Mental Health; Physical Activity and Fitness

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked in the summer camp and the adult day center at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries. The interns focused their project on promoting mental and emotional health as well as physical health. The interns created a number of engaging and informative emotional health projects for the children, teaching the kids how to recognize their emotions and effectively regulate them. In the senior center the interns led group exercise classes, using music that engaged the seniors mentally, physically and socially. Additionally, the interns assisted in other daily activities with the seniors, including art projects, games and mealtime.

Personal Statements:
Megan said, “My time spent at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries helped me to better connect with an underserved community of Philadelphia. I was so impressed with how the wonderful opportunities and the sense of community that Mercy creates helps the children and adults to develop mentally and physically through their daily activities. The children and adults may have all experienced difficult situations, but they were always welcoming to the other interns and me, sharing their stories and friendship with us. I am glad to have spent time working with the staff, learning about the individuals at the center and helping to improve their quality of life. Although my goal was to help them improve their health and well-being this summer, they have in turn greatly helped me to develop as a person and a future health care professional. I am so grateful for my experiences through Bridging the Gaps at the Mercy Family Center.” Nicolette said, “The weeks I had at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries allowed me to observe and participate with a community I was less familiar with in Philadelphia since I started medical school. While I noticed how tight-knit everyone was in this community center, especially in their mission to help their members thrive, I was touched by how they opened up to the other interns and me. They not only taught me how they strive to make sustainable and impactful change in this underserved community, but gave me the chance to work with them side by side. As a future physician and active citizen, Mercy showed me what it means to make short-term, tangible changes within individuals and a positive difference for future generations.” Victoria said, “Mercy Neighborhood Ministries is a great organization that is committed to serving the surrounding community. I was really struck by the effort that all staff members make to ensure that the needs of the community are met. I learned about the intricacies of providing health care and social services to this underserved community. This experience will guide me throughout my career as an occupational therapist.”

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Breaking the Stigma of Homelessness at Project HOME

Student Interns:
Tara Baran, Temple University, School of Pharmacy
Daniel Himelstein, Temple University, Lewis Katz School of Medicine

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

Community Preceptors:
Lisa Armstrong, Project HOME
Beatrice Zovich, Project HOME

The Community Site:
The mission of Project HOME (Housing, Opportunities for employment, Medicine, Education) is to empower adults, children and families to break the cycle of homelessness, 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 community. Kairos House is a progressive-demand residence for men and women who have been chronically homeless and have a primary diagnosis of serious mental illness. The program provides 36 subsidized single-room-occupancy units in a clean and sober environment. It offers 24-hour staff support, on-site case management, medication monitoring, financial management assistance, and on-site groups and recreational activities. Residents are encouraged to participate in recovery-oriented activities that lead to personal growth, overall well-being and self-sufficiency. 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; Physical Activity and Fitness; Tobacco Use

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns integrated into the everyday lives of the current residents at Project HOME’s Kairos House and were warmly welcomed into their vibrant community. They took this opportunity to provide education on overall physical and mental health and well-being and led daily activities engaging residents in these topics. The interns also engaged with residents individually to encourage them to value and take control of their health. In doing so, the residents demonstrated the amazing strength and perseverance that drives them to overcome the challenges they face day after day.

Personal Statements:
Tara said, “The residents and staff of Kairos House welcomed me immediately into their community. My goal for the summer was to educate these individuals on ways to improve their overall physical and mental health, but at the same time, they taught me about the issues that lie within health care and the effect that social determinants have on one’s health, despite the efforts of health care professionals. I saw firsthand how resilient people were, and how they were able to remain themselves throughout the difficulties that they faced.” Danny said, “I have never met a warmer and welcoming group of people than the staff and residents of Kairos House. The strength and good will these individuals demonstrate while facing the challenges of an inequitable health care and social system has been both empowering and inspiring. I have learned so much from these amazing people this summer, and I hope to take what I have learned into my practice as a compassionate health care provider.”

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Integrated Youth Summer Learning Experience

Student Interns:
Zirconia Lake, Temple University, College of Public Health, Master of Social Work Program
Shuning Li, Temple University, Lewis Katz School of Medicine
Karl Mereus, Temple University School of Pharmacy

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

Community Preceptor:
Kelly Devlin, MSW, Salvation Army Red Shield Family Residence

The Community Site:
The Salvation Army Red Shield Family Residence, located in North Philadelphia, is an emergency housing shelter for families. In addition to adequate meals and shelter, families are provided with education and assistance on issues pertaining to parenting, health and wellness, trauma and self-sufficiency. After-school services are in place for school-age children. View Community Partner Web Site

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

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at the Salvation Army Red Shield Family Residence taught lessons about chronic disease and oral health during the children’s daily activities at camp. The team engaged them in and encouraged daily exercise, such as dance choreography and moderate-intensity exercise. Planned educational trips exposed the children to different aspects of art, music, history and biology. The interns also guided the children through interpersonal conflicts and provided them with a stable support system.

Personal Statements:
Zirconia said, “Interning with the Red Shield has impacted my personal and professional life in a way I have never imagined. As this has been my first experience working with children outside of the school setting, I have gained knowledge about different traumatic experiences children face while living in a shelter. Through BTG I was able to create an escape for the children, engaging in activities I or the children have never experienced. This opportunity has given me hope beyond measure. Hope that I need to push me into becoming the best social worker I can be.” Shuning said, “Working at Red Shield has been such an enriching and valuable experience. My time with the children has shown me firsthand the traumatic effect of homelessness. The difficult circumstances these children and their parents are in, and the resiliency they show, has really illuminated me to their struggles in getting proper health care and education. I hope to take these lessons with me as I continue my education and provide health care to the population in North Philadelphia.” Karl said, “As a budding clinician, I knew this experience would provide additional insight on some of the challenges many patients face. However, I was surprised at the willingness and positivity of both adults and children alike in the face of adversity. Additionally, the experience forced me to confront my own biases and prejudices. BTG is an opportunity that should be shared by all health professionals. Empathy and understanding through experience helps to strengthen the bond of trust between patient and practitioner.”

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Cultivating Resiliency Through a Summer Wellness Program at Youth Emergency Service

Student Interns:
Kristofer Montoya, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Kanika Ramchandani, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Sarah Rice, Thomas Jefferson University, College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy

Academic Preceptors:
Maria Hervada-Page, MSS, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Patrick McManus, MD, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Community Preceptor:
Keevon Johnson, BS, Youth Emergency Service

The Community Site:
Youth Emergency Service (YES), located in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia, provides immediate shelter and support services to adolescents aged 12 to 18 who face housing insecurity or who are unable to live safely with their families. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Health Services; Adolescent Health; Injury and Violence Prevention; Mental Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Preparedness; Responsible Sexual Behavior

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Youth Emergency Service (YES) planned and implemented a summer wellness program for the residents of the facility. The primary goal was to provide the youth with opportunities for personal growth and resilience building, hoping to foster a safe space for learning and living. The programming ranged from workshops on gun violence and maneuvering police stops to self-care such as cooking, sexual health education and physical activities, facilitated by community organizations, community members, YES staff and BTG interns. The interns also participated in a weekly clinic run by Dr. McManus, a family and community physician at Jefferson. Follow-up to the clinic involved interns escorting youth to doctor’s appointments and STI testing facilities and connecting them with relevant community resources. The interns worked closely with YES staff, from youth care workers to social workers, to provide support to YES residents. Furthermore, interns created a curriculum on personal hygiene and emotional regulation/mindfulness that can be implemented by the youth care workers during the year.

Personal Statements:
Kris said, “My experience at Youth Emergency Service this summer gave me the opportunity to work with a population that I hope to one day serve. I spent the summer getting to know the residents of YES, who constantly challenged me to develop my communication skills, strengthened my ability to build relationships, as well as improved my capacity to cultivate a safe and mutually respectful environment. I am extremely grateful to have had an experience outside of the normal medical school curriculum that I can draw from in my future career.” Kanika said, “My experiences at YES will be integral to my career as a physician. This summer was especially valuable in furthering my understanding of health care in an urban underserved setting. I learned about the support provided and how to navigate the resources available to adolescents in a vulnerable position. I learned from the residents at YES—about what it means to work through great challenges, to be resilient and to be open to new people and to new experiences despite a history of trauma. Additionally, I learned how to better engage with this adolescent population—to communicate effectively, to build trust and to create an inclusive and respectful environment.” Sarah said, “Despite spending only a short time at Youth Emergency Service, I am confident that the lessons I learned while there will assist me throughout my entire career as an occupational therapist. Although many of the youth had histories filled with unimaginable trauma and instability, they were constantly seeking out new connections and experiences—showing me that resilience is a powerful force and that adolescents’ ability to overcome stress should not be underestimated. Instead, with the right supports in place, including health care workers that utilize a trauma-informed approach, youth of any background have the ability to succeed. I also learned how to connect adolescents with the numerous community social services available to them and ways to overcome barriers often faced by youth in the system. Overall, this experience expanded my ability to maintain an empathic and mindful outlook as both a health professional and as a person, and instilled in me a greater passion for advocating for marginalized adolescents.”

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