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

Philadelphia Consortium Projects - 2018

Homeless & Transitional Housing

Back to Summaries by Region

Bethesda Project, My Brother's House

Student Interns:
Jenna Burlew, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Occupational Therapy
Jennifer Hsu, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Occupational Therapy

Academic Preceptor:
Caryn Johnson, MSOT, OTR/L, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Occupational Therapy

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):
Access to Health Services; Heart Disease and Stroke; Mental Health and Mental Disorders; Nutrition and Physical Activity; Social Determinants of Health; Substance Abuse.

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at the Bethesda Project’s My Brother’s House organized on- and off-site activities to educate site residents on heart-healthy behaviors. Activities included cooking meals, gardening, dog walking, museum trips and a Health Day barbecue, to which interns brought blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters for residents to use. The interns developed educational materials regarding medication management, common adverse drug-food interactions and healthy food options at local fast-food restaurants. The interns also assisted residents and staff with daily tasks such as sorting clothing and toiletry donations, helping residents fill out applications and accompanying residents to medical appointments.

Intern Statements:
Jenna Burlew: “My time at My Brother’s House was an irreplaceable summer. The men and staff here gave me so much insight into the problems experienced by those facing homelessness and various other vulnerabilities. I will forever have their personal stories with me as I further my career as a healthcare professional, keeping an open mind with all my patients as I will never fully be able to comprehend and understand what they have gone through. These men have incredible strength and bravery to keep pursuing life, and I am grateful to see and hear about the process individuals must go through in order to turn their life around.”

Jenn Hsu: “My time at My Brother’s House has given me invaluable insight into the housing process, services available to individuals who are homeless in Philadelphia, and the multitude of factors that impact homeless individuals’ ability to maintain their health. I am grateful to the residents of My Brother’s House for sharing their personal stories and for giving me honest insight into the challenges that they face daily. These residents demonstrate great strength, thoughtfulness and motivation to improve their circumstances, contrary to the unfortunate stereotype of homeless individuals as lazy, crazy or lacking agency. My experiences from this internship will make me a more informed and empathetic health professional.”

Back to Top

Encouraging Personal Growth and Resilience at Covenant House

Student Interns:
Marcus Dassah, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine
Zachary Mankoff, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine
Lily Van Tongeren, Drexel University College of Medicine

Academic Preceptors:
Joan Gluch, PhD, RDH, PHDHP, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine
Chris Renjilian, MD, Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania
David K. Wagner, MD, FACEP, 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 healthcare 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; Oral Health; Tobacco Use.

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked primarily with the Education/Vocation department at Covenant House to provide job searching and professional development skill-building for the residents. Specifically, the interns helped run the weekly CHOICES job-readiness course, created résumés with the residents and led mock interviews. The residents also shadowed in the medical clinic and attended staff transition meetings to provide insights into interactions with the residents. Other projects included organizing the professional boutique, reorganizing the Education/Vocation file cabinets and cleaning out the clinic pharmacy, as well as organizing an oral health visit from the dental school and a field trip to the Mütter Museum. Last, the interns led a series of educational workshops on health and wellness topics including mental health, heart health and smoking cessation.

Intern Statements:
Marcus Dassah: “My experience as a BTG intern at Covenant House this summer has been a brief but very insightful and inspiring one. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work alongside a great team of passionate and experienced individuals, providing unconditional respect and support to resilient homeless young people with potential to become phenomenal adults. As an aspiring healthcare provider, my daily encounters with the staff and residents as well as their experiences have reinforced my passion for community service (as there is more work to be done), as well as my desire to be compassionate and nonjudgmental in all my dealings. As a parent, my overall BTG experience has also taught and reminded me to be cautious of my choice of words and how labels negatively affect the growth of our children.”

Zach Mankoff: “Working with the staff and the residents at Covenant House has been invaluable to my growth as both a future physician and a human being. Our medical education at this point has focused primarily on specific organ systems and disorders, but there is so much that goes into health and wellness besides what we do in the clinic. Unfortunately, our society is often unwilling to lend a hand or spend the resources to provide the warmth and care to address these needs for the people that need them the most. Through conversations with both staff and residents, I have come to understand how important it is to see patients and humans as they deserve to be seen, instead of the labels society places on them, and I hope to carry this lesson with me throughout my career.”

Lily Van Tongeren: “My experience at Covenant House has been humbling, emotional, self-reflective and has been a milestone in my doctoral training. In the first-year Drexel course Foundations of Patient Care, I learned how to take a history and talk to standardized patients about sometimes uncomfortable topics. At Covenant House I experienced and learned from patient interactions where trust, honesty and respect were unwavering. I learned how to set aside assumptions, face my internal bias and see the best in people. By working with the youth in the EdVoc department, I have gained some insight into the challenges homeless youth face on a daily basis, and the impact that homelessness, unemployment and a poor education system has on emotional and physical health. I can’t begin to thank Dr. Ginsburg for setting an example for the type of doctor I would like to be one day and the youth for telling me their stories, trusting me and teaching me how to be a better person.”

Back to Top

A Place to Heal: Summer at Serenity Court

Student Interns:
Mariah Elly, Drexel University College of Medicine
Clarissa O’Conor, Drexel University College of Medicine

Academic Preceptor:
Vincent Zarro, MD, PhD, Drexel University College of Medicine

Community Preceptor:
Pete McCauley, JD, MSW, Serenity Court Medical Respite, DePaul USA

The Community Site:
Serenity Court is a medical respite for homeless individuals. It started in 2013 as a partnership between DePaul USA and the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation (PHMC), with an eight-bed facility located in DePaul House, a transitional home for only men, providing short-term housing and social services to homeless men who were recuperating from recent hospitalization. With its relocation in 2018 to Serenity Court, it can now house up to 20 men and women. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Health Care; Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Disabilities Conditions; Mental Health; Substance Abuse.

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Serenity Court Medical Respite took on case management for the residents of the respite, working with the social workers and nurse manager. The interns completed intake interviews with new residents and connected residents to resources, such as getting new IDs and birth certificates. They also assisted residents with obtaining health insurance cards and applying for benefits. They researched housing options such as private rental properties, skilled nursing facilities, VA housing, transitional housing, and other public and private supportive housing.

Intern Statements:
Mariah Elly: “Interning at Serenity Court was exactly what I hoped for with my BTG site placement. This summer, I made meaningful relationships with each of the residents. I learned about their past lives, experience with homelessness and motivations for a better future. Navigating the complexities of local and national assistance programs on behalf of the residents of Serenity Court, I learned how challenging it can be to access these resources without the necessary tools to do so. After seven weeks at Serenity Court, I have a better understanding of the struggles these individuals face and how important it is to advocate on their behalf so that they can have the things they need in order to heal.”

Clarissa O’Conor: “It has been extremely meaningful to get to know the residents at Serenity Court Medical Respite this summer and to hear their stories. I have a greater understanding of the seemingly insurmountable barriers that people face when they are experiencing homelessness. Homelessness is a moral crisis of capitalism in this country, and while I am committed to system change in my political work, I feel more equipped both practically and emotionally to provide care and services to people in the throes of this crisis.”

Back to Top

Promoting Health Across Generations

Student Interns:
Hannah Hrobuchak, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Puneet Nijjar, Thomas Jefferson University, College of Nursing
Chloe Virgil, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Academic Preceptors:
Rickie Brawer, PhD, MPH, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Susan Egger, PhD, MSN, RN, Thomas Jefferson University, College of Nursing
James Plumb, MD, MPH, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Community Preceptors:
Barbara Coleman, Program Director, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries
Barbara Willis-Powell, Activities Coordinator, 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 childcare 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; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Tobacco Use.

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries’ children’s summer camp, where they assisted classroom teachers with everyday summer camp activities from reading to chaperoning field trips. Additionally, they encouraged physical fitness, healthy eating habits, personal hygiene, nutrition and heat safety. Formal health lessons with the children included oral health, heart health and smoking cessation. With the adult day program, the BTG interns led group exercises and daily morning discussions, assisted with meals and personal hygiene, and engaged clients in various daily activities.

Intern Statements:
Hannah Hrobuchak: “During this internship, I felt privileged to be allowed insight into the familial community that exists at Mercy. The children, from the very beginning, were willing to trust and accept me into their school. I had never known the amazing connections I was missing as I stayed within my two-block radius in center city. Professionally, I learned the importance of having a stable environment for the children to grow and learn, as any disruptions to these can impact the children emotionally, socially and educationally.”

Puneet Nijjar: “I had the privilege to work with children and senior adults at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries. Through this Bridging the Gap experience I learned, regardless of working with children or senior adults, much of the care is similar. Both populations need companionship, guidance and a stable environment they trust, and Mercy provides this for them. I had the honor to work with these individuals in a group setting as well as individually at more of a personal level. This experience will help me understand and better communicate with my future patients.”

Chloe Virgil: “I hope to work with children and/or senior adults in my future medical career, and Bridging the Gaps allowed me to work with both populations. I interacted with individuals in a laid-back, non-clinical setting—doing craft activities, group exercises, watching movies and sharing meals. We simply got to know each other as people. This experience was a valuable reminder that when I care for patients in the future, I must view them and treat them as people above all else.”

Back to Top

Youth Empowerment Through Relationships and Community Building

Student Interns:
Brett Kelly, Temple University, School of Nursing
Hayoung Youn, Temple University, Lewis Katz School of Medicine

Academic Preceptor:
Nora Jones, PhD, Temple University

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

The Community Site:
The Salvation Army Red Shield Family Residence is a safe and welcoming emergency housing shelter offering loving, respectful, compassionate and nonjudgmental services in order to empower residents to strive toward self-sufficiency. All family configurations, including families with teenage children and single men with children, are accepted. However, the majority of our families are young mothers with infants. Many of these women have aged out of the DHS system and are now entering the shelter system as homeless adults. They enter the shelter lacking basic life skills and parenting skills and having little to no actual work experience. The majority of these young mothers have self-identified as victims of traumatic childhoods; physical, emotional and sexual abuse; and neglect. In fact, 75 percent of residents have openly reported trauma histories. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Health Communication; Heart Disease and Stroke; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness.

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns worked as summer camp counselors for the children at the Salvation Army Red Shield Family Residence, engaging the kids in various educational, artistic and physical activities. Educational activities included interactive lessons on cardiovascular and oral health, which involved kids learning about the anatomy and functions of the heart, learning how to floss, and making a poster about the connection between oral health and heart disease. The interns accompanied the children on educational and fun field trips throughout the summer, including visits to Bartram’s Garden, the Woodmere Art Museum, the Mütter Museum, LEGOLAND, the Norristown Farm Park, the Wagner Institute of Science, the Cape May Zoo and Adventure Aquarium. Daily activities included arts and crafts, allowing the kids to express themselves nonverbally, and physical exercise at the park. Overall, the summer camp created a safe environment for the children at the shelter to make friends, learn to resolve both internal and external conflicts, and find comfort and acceptance.

Intern Statements:
Brett Kelly: “This summer, my goal for the program at this site was to get a better gauge of the health and way of life of population in this area and in these types of unfortunate situations. Through the seven weeks, I have gained a better perspective of how the families’ lives here work and what kind of health issues are present in this group of people as well as what they could be at risk for. Overall, I am very glad to have experienced this type of work, and it will certainly help me with kids and supporting families in the future.”

Hayoung Youn: “My hope for this summer was to get a little bit more acquainted with the city and get to know about the lives of the residents here. The Bridging the Gaps program gave me that and so much more. Throughout the seven weeks at the Red Shield Family Residence, I saw not only the financial struggles of these families, but also the emotional trauma from homelessness and domestic violence and its effect on the children. I hope I was able to show them that they deserve love and acceptance regardless of their current situation. I am very thankful for this program for giving me the opportunity to take a step closer to the homeless population in Philadelphia.”

Back to Top

Promoting Adolescent Wellness and Development at Youth Emergency Service

Student Interns:
Saya Bery, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Brianna Casey, Thomas Jefferson University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

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

Community Preceptor:
Keevon Johnson, BS, Youth Emergency Service

The Community Site:
Youth Emergency Service, 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):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness; Responsible Sexual Behavior.

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Youth Emergency Service (YES) organized and implemented a summer enrichment program for the youth with the theme “Grow and Glow,” with an emphasis on personal development and self-care. The youth were offered two to three workshops per day, with topics ranging from nutrition and physical fitness to college preparation and healthy relationships. Workshops focused on art therapy or crafting provided creative outlets for the youth, while cooking classes and entrepreneurial speakers focused on building life skills. The interns facilitated some workshops on their own, but the majority were conducted by a community partner, volunteer or staff at YES. Selected youth were recognized at the end of each week for their leadership, outstanding participation in the program and embodiment of YES values.

Intern Statements:
Saya Bery: “With each day at YES, I was increasingly amazed and inspired by the resiliency and strength that the youth embodied, despite the trauma and hardships that they have had to endure from such a young age. I learned more about the lives of the population I hope to work with, mind-sets, backgrounds and lack of access to healthcare resources than I could ever have learned in the traditional medical school curriculum. I feel fortunate to have been able to connect with the youth to see how difficult each day can be and to provide a safe space for them to explore their emotions, recognize their strength and grow personally each day. I know these experiences have better prepared me to be a more mindful physician in the future, inspiring me to provide trauma-informed care to this vulnerable population.”

Brianna Casey: “My experience working with YES this summer opened my eyes to the variety of challenges that teenagers in unstable living situations may face, certainly, but more importantly, my time at YES taught me about the incredible degree of resiliency that the majority of these youth possess. I greatly enjoyed getting to know the residents here, getting a glimpse into the experiences of their lives, and witnessing their maturity, compassion and strength that seemed developed beyond their years. I am grateful for a summer that has invigorated me and renewed my hope in the future of our nation’s youth, and I look forward to taking what I have learned through this experience with me as I move toward a career that is focused on advocacy for the development of individuals from any background.”

Back to Top

Support BTG With Your Gift
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