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Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey Projects - 2018

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Sustainable Wellness & Empowerment in a Permanent Supportive Housing Community

Student Interns:
Lydia Yejin Lee, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy
Mina Lee, Rutgers University, Physician Assistant Program

Academic Preceptors:
Mary Bridgeman, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
Frank Giannelli, MS, PA-C, Rutgers University, Physician Assistant Program

Community Preceptor:
Melissa Mascolo, MA, Making It Possible to End Homelessness (MIPH)

The Community Site:
Making It Possible to End Homelessness is now partnering with Mission First Housing Group in its initiative to end homelessness in Central New Jersey. Amandla Crossing and Imani Park will provide permanent supportive housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Middlesex County. Amandla and Imani have 46 units of safe, affordable, permanent housing combined with on-site support services where residents can access the resources they need to increase health, independence and housing stability. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Healthcare; Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status.

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns working at Making It Possible to End Homelessness gauged the health and wellness needs of the Amandla Crossing community via surveys and used the responses to create optional health and wellness workshops. Workshops focused on various topics such as stress management, nutrition on a budget, holistic health and kids’ health promotion. Interns also engaged the community through one-on-one meetings with tenants to identify their associated social determinants of health and address their specific barriers to health and wellness. They also worked to link tenants during these meetings with necessary resources and increase community integration through betterment of their community.

Intern Statements:
Lydia Lee: “I am so grateful for this experience to have served the permanent housing community for the homeless. Every individual we have encountered through health and wellness one-on-one meetings and various events we have held changed my professional and personal perspective in myriad ways. Approaching each major challenge within the many social determinants of health, I learned so much about how to go about serving these types of underserved communities. I learned through narratives of each individual life what kind of problems and barriers these tenants face that I would have otherwise never considered. I also became more appreciative [of] what I have and the limitless potential I have to help these underserved populations. I feel even more motivated and open-minded as a healthcare professional to serve the community through utilizing everything I have learned through this humbling experience.”

Mina Lee: “I learned through this internship to view health and wellness in a broader context [and] to include the social determinants of health that may differ between different socioeconomic tiers. Most of our clients had very limited access to healthcare, transportation and even basic needs, all of which we had to keep in mind when finding sustainable resources for them. I found inspiration during the one-on-one meetings where clients disclosed to us how they became homeless and the struggles they faced as low-income or unemployed individuals. It was very humbling to see the efforts they make with the resources they do have to improve their own lives as well as their family members or dependents. In the future, I will use what I learned at Amandla Crossing in order to become a more culturally competent provider and be mindful of the different barriers to health my patients may have.”

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Realizing the Value of Emotional Meaning in the Management of Mental Wellness

Student Intern:
John Belardo, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptor:
Mary L. Wagner, PharmD, MS, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptors:
Debra Brown-Ford, Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services
Michael Swerdlow, PhD, FACHE, 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 myriad ways, ranging from PACT (Program for Assertive Community Treatment) team home visits to a partial-care day facility. Its partial-care facility holds daily group sessions on topics such as healthy living and recovering from substance abuse. Bridgeway also focuses on social skills, job preparation and creative outlets for the people served. View Community Partner Web Site

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

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student intern at Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services observed Bridgeway groups and shadowed staff to better understand how the people served engaged in discussion about various health topics and wellness management. Over the course of the summer, the student intern built relationships with staff and members that led to candid one-on-one meetings with the people served. These meetings were guided by a student-designed questionnaire aimed at gathering info on concerns, interests and attitudes affecting the cost-benefit analysis of medications. The intern then implemented new group conversations about medication side effects and safety, diet and nutrition, vitamins and herbal dietary supplements. Lastly, Bridgeway’s clients improved their knowledge of their medications with the help of pill-card bottles that they and staff can reference when needed.

Intern Statement:
John Belardo: “I’ve been honored to work with all the persons served at Bridgeway. They have inspired me to be not only the best healthcare professional I can be, but also the best person I can be. Their stories and experiences remind me of what’s really important in life and highlight just how critical it is to treat all people as people, not as their diagnoses. What it all boils down to, in regards to patient care and connecting as human beings, is just how much meaning we put into it. From here, I will always strive to make at least one person’s day, no matter how hard the day is. Professionally, I’ve become much more comfortable with motivational interviewing and in finding engaging ways to communicate dry info, both of which are essential skills at Bridgeway. Most importantly, I’ve realized just how important a strong social support system like Bridgeway is in not only becoming healthier, but also in maintaining that health.”

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Fitness and Wellness in Substance Use Treatment

Student Interns:
Meagan Hawes, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Kevin Kong, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptors:
Rhina A. Acevedo, MD, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Megan E. Maroney, PharmD, BCPP, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptor:
Ileen Bradley, Damon House Inc.

The Community Site:
The Damon House Residential Program is licensed for 64 beds and is dedicated to serving those whose drug addiction has led to financial hardship. Damon House Inc. serves individuals from all walks of life and social strata, regardless of their ethnicity or racial backgrounds, and accepts men aged 18 years and older. Damon House Inc. was founded in 1969 as a nonprofit social service organization and was incorporated in 1971 in Paterson, NJ. Prompted by a concern from the mayor, Damon House relocated its primary location to New Brunswick, NJ, in 1974. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness; Substance Abuse; Tobacco Use.

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Damon House Residential Program modified existing workshop curricula on exercise, nutrition, heart health, germs and hygiene, dental hygiene and Hepatitis C, as well as facilitating workshops on these topics for clients (one topic every Thursday). The workshops were structured in a discussion format that addressed client questions collected from pre-surveys prior to each workshop. The interns were also responsible for reviewing and updating the exercise components of the facility’s fitness program, including the weekly workout sessions and fitness tests for clients. Challenges included keeping clients motivated during workouts, recognizing the importance of the choices they make to their health and recovery process, and maintaining accuracy in data entry of individual performances measured through biweekly fitness tests. The interns also coordinated the annual Field Day, a fun and friendly competitive outdoor event enjoyed by the residents.

Intern Statements:
Meagan Hawes: “What particularly stands out to me from my time at Damon House are the conversations I have had with clients about their experiences with addiction and their goals for the future. I have been humbled by the generosity with which they've shared parts of their stories with me, and I have learned a great deal from speaking with each of them. Recovery is hard work. When you walk in the door to Damon House, a wooden banner greets you that reads, "Where people care," and the warmth and guidance of the staff couldn't make that support more evident. From their leadership, to fitness workouts with the clients, to weekly wellness discussions, to learning about the interactions of addiction and mental health — on so very many days I left the House inspired by the work. To me, Damon House is a hopeful and restorative place, and I am grateful to the House for allowing me to be part of its community this summer.”

Kevin Kong: “Prior to Damon House, I never really had much experience with the topic of drug addiction or public health. It was always an intangible subject for me because I never knew anyone suffering from substance abuse disorder. Clients at Damon House were kind enough and more than willing to share their stories and backgrounds behind their substance-use history. These stories and backgrounds of many of them really drove the point home that all it sometimes takes is a different storyline with different circumstances for one person’s life to turn out very different from that of another’s. I have been ecstatic to share my knowledge I have on health and wellness with all the clients as well as getting to know each and every one of them. Being at Damon House really motivated me to pursue public health more intensely as well as influenced my decision to become a pharmacist who will emphasize medications and their addictive potentials to people. I would like to thank Damon House and Bridging the Gaps for giving me the chance to be a part of their teams and help me grow as an aspiring healthcare professional and person.”

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Utilizing Community Gardening to Bridge the Gaps in Food Security

Student Interns:
Nimit Shah, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Christina Spoleti, Rowan University, School of Osteopathic Medicine

Academic Preceptors:
Linda Boyd, DO, Rowan University, School of Osteopathic Medicine 
Bernadette Hohl, PhD, Rutgers University, School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Yvette Molina, Elijah’s Promise

The Community Site:
Elijah’s Promise began as a volunteer-run soup kitchen serving the hungry in New Brunswick, NJ, 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):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Health Communication; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health.

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Elijah’s Promise modified an existing consumer satisfaction survey aimed at assessing the food and social services needs, food security, health status, and experience/willingness to participate in community gardening among Elijah’s Promise community kitchen clients. The survey was conducted through in-person interviews with 122 individuals. The survey identified two important needs: access to fresh fruits and vegetables and the participants’ ability to feed themselves or their families without the help of Elijah’s Promise. When guests were asked about having regular access to fresh fruits and vegetables, approximately 39% reported “Yes,” 56% reported “No” and 5% reported “Sometimes” (n=121). When guests were asked if they were able to feed themselves or their families without Elijah’s Promise, approximately 33% reported “Yes,”  52% reported “No” and 15% reported “Sometimes” (n=122).  Based on these needs, the interns developed and led a workshop on urban gardening and its health and economic benefits. It culminated in individuals learning how to plant and grow crops in the Shiloh community garden in New Brunswick.

Intern Statements:
Nimit Shah: “As an epidemiologist in training, being a part of an interdisciplinary team at Elijah’s Promise through Bridging the Gaps has helped me understand the roles of healthcare professionals in a low-income community. Learning that there is a distinction between hunger and food security, and then implementing a community gardening workshop to improve community cohesion and food sources was an important experience for me, as it reaffirmed my reasons for entering the health professions. I am glad I was able to take advantage of such an opportunity, and I hope all healthcare professionals in training can benefit from similar experiences.”

Christina Spoleti: “This summer interning for Elijah’s Promise community kitchen has increased my awareness of the health disparities facing individuals in the New Brunswick community. I have gained an understanding of food security and the importance of not only addressing hunger, but also food insecurity in our communities. It is not enough to provide food, but important for healthcare providers to help improve continued access to nutritious, affordable and familiar foods for their patients. As a future physician, I can utilize my experiences immersed with the community to better address my patients’ needs and support the local communities of my future practice.” 

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Adapted Exercise Program for Individuals with Developmental and Intellectual Disorders

Student Interns:
Donghoon (David) Lee, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy
Rajvi Shah, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Academic Preceptors:
Anita Siu, PharmD, BCPPS, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy
Betsy Mathew, MD, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Community Preceptor:
Karen Z. Kowalski, MPH, OTR, The Arc of Somerset County

The Community Site:
The Arc of Somerset County is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide quality services and advocacy to support development and achievement at every stage of life for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Disabilities Conditions; Health Communication; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness.

The Project:
The purpose of the Bridging the Gaps student interns’ project at The Arc of Somerset County was to encourage a healthier lifestyle in adults with intellectual and developmental disorders (ID/DD). Having observed that many of these individuals’ downstream health conditions are associated with sedentary lifestyles, the interns worked to improve an existing exercise program at a day employment site in Branchburg. The interns created an exercise manual appropriate for individuals living with ID/DD and educated staff members on how to sustain the exercise program. Visuals and strategies were used to satisfy project goals. The audience was invited to lead exercises, which helped engage them; music was played, which increased enthusiasm for exercise and relaxation for meditation; and the exercise routine was coordinated according to the chosen muscle group on a displayed human body diagram, which assisted in teaching the impact exercise has on the body. Overall, through observation and conversations with the participants, consensus was reached that the project’s goals of improvement in engagement, enjoyment and understanding were achieved through the adapted exercise program.

Intern Statements:
David Lee: “Through my BTG experience at the Arc of Somerset County, I was able to observe firsthand and experience through a simulation, physical limitations that come with a disability. I became more adept at nonverbal communication and through that have become a more empathetic listener. Most importantly, I realized how even a small change could bring about a huge improvement in the quality of life of the individual with ID/DD. Witnessing all the satisfaction after each exercise session made me proud, and further encouraged me to pursue [the] healthcare field as a pharmacist.”

Rajvi Shah: “The BTG experience I gained at the Arc of Somerset County was significant for my development as a future physician. The most important lesson was recognizing the persistent challenge and pervasive impact of living with limitations, both intellectual and physical. This foundational understanding helped me develop the patience required to improve my nonverbal communication, a vital skill for building rapport with these individuals. Our oral hygiene and exercise programs also highlighted to us the importance of being “simple and to the point” and using visual aids and interactive activities to hold their attention. Above all, I value the fulfilling gratification I felt after every interaction with them. These are the lessons I hope to carry with me as I continue in my lifelong journey of developing into a better physician and individual.”

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Extending Education to Camden City Youth

Student Interns:
Nicole Ackerman, Cooper University Medical School
Giae Surine Dérissé, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptors:
Susan Lui, Director of Community Affairs, Cooper University Medical School
Megan Maroney, PharmD, BCPP, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptor:
Siomara Wedderburn, MSW, Urban Promise

The Community Site:
Urban Promise is a faith-based, nonprofit organization located in Camden, NJ. Its mission is to equip Camden children and young adults with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth and Christian leadership. During the academic year, it functions as a school and also provides after-school programs. During the summer, Urban Promise provides seven different camps across Camden and Pennsauken, NJ, for first through eighth graders. Urban Promise is also the largest private employer of teens in the city of Camden. About 90 teens are employed at the summer camps where they also take enrichment classes such as job training, SAT skills and life-skills classes. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Educational Advancement/Literacy; Infant and Child Health; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health.

The Project:
The goal of the Bridging the Gaps student interns at Urban Promise was to equip the youth of Camden and surrounding areas with tools through education. The interns developed a science and art curriculum and taught classes about nutrition, self-esteem and the importance of oral healthcare. They created an oral health kit that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and instructions in both Spanish and English so that parents could better assist their children. In addition to teaching classes, the interns participated in the various activities that Urban Promise offered the camp, such as cooking class, cycling and yoga. The interns learned about the health of the population through meaningful discussions and developed skills on curriculum building and implementation. Overall, the interns were able to combine their didactic knowledge with community serving to create a meaningful project with long-term implementation.

Intern Statements:
Nicole Ackerman: “The Bridging the Gaps summer program served to enrich my understanding of how to better serve economically insecure communities by discussing the bio-psycho-social-spiritual factors that affect patient health. The didactic and skill-building lectures served as a foundation upon which I was able to design a project based on the community-defined needs at Urban Promise. The interdisciplinary collaboration reinforced the value of teamwork and reminded me to always communicate with every member of a health team to give my patient the best possible care. This experience will help me to better engage with patients and provide holistic healthcare in underserved communities.”

Giae Surine Dérissé: “Participating in the Bridging the Gaps has been a great experience. In the beginning as a pharmacy student, it was challenging to see where my role would be in the population that I was serving. This caused me to reimagine the role of a pharmacist while learning more about public health. Working with an underserved community that, from the outside looking in, is considered to be an at-risk population in a dangerous area was a great experience. This reinforced in me to look past the data of the population, the media coverage, and society's perception of the community to better serve. I will be able to carry those principles with me as I grow both personally and professionally. In addition to the work at the community site, we had informative seminars every week on various topics that impact public health. The seminars caused me to think critically about how I can address public health issues not only as a pharmacist but also on the local level as a private citizen. Overall, the program is a unique opportunity to collaborate with other healthcare care professionals for better public health outcomes.”

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Diabetic Group Educator Interns

Student Interns:
Oresta Borodevyc, Rutgers University, School of Health Professions
Yessenia Leon, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Samantha Young, Rutgers University, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptors:
Thea Cogan-Drew, PA-C, Rutgers University, School of Health Professions
Irina Grafova, PhD, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Karen Wei-ru Lin, MD, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Community Preceptors:
Douglas Bishop, MD, Zufall Health Center
Hilary Stevens, MD
, Zufall Health Center

The Community Site:
Zufall Health Center offers myriad opportunities for a Spanish and non-Spanish speaking students to work with the medical director, Douglas Bishop, MD. Dr. Bishop cares for a large group of economically disadvantaged patients, including legal and undocumented immigrants. Projects at Zufall are shaped based on the students’ skills and interests. View Community Partner Web Site

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

The Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns at Zufall Health Center helped run the diabetic group visits for both English- and Spanish-speaking patients. The visits focused on different health topics including oral health, foot care, eye care, pharmacy, stress, exercise, mental health and nutrition. Recruitment of patients took place from a generated diabetes patient list that was categorized based on language preference. Patients were then called, in order to determine interest and ability to attend sessions. Patients were able to have a provider checkup with the physician in two out of the four classes and received oral health supplies, handouts and healthy refreshments. These experiences not only benefited the patients, but also benefited the interns, who learned about public health education and its impact in the community.

Intern Statements:
Oresta Borodevyc: “I really enjoyed the experience at Zufall and found it especially rewarding to teach diabetic group education courses to the English and Spanish underserved populations and also occasionally shadowing primary care providers. Specifically, I hope to use the knowledge gained in my future practice as a Physician Assistant to address health disparities and manage health access while meeting Healthy People 2020 goals and objectives.”
 
Yessenia Leon: “I found my time at Zufall to be meaningful. At the health center, I learned the importance education and outreach can have on the health outcomes of a patient population. I learned about the challenges that come in addressing an underserved population’s health disparities. As a future physician interested in working in a primary care setting, I found the experience and knowledge I gained during my time at Zufall to be rewarding.”

Samantha Young: “I found my experience at Zufall to be eye-opening and very gratifying. While teaching diabetic group visits, I learned about many of the barriers that underserved populations face in their attempt to lead healthy lives. I also had the opportunity to interact with many different health professionals to troubleshoot solutions to combat these barriers. As such, I hope to use these lessons as a future public health educator to develop creative ideas to advance community outreach and overall public health.”

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