Many people ask what a Community HealthCorps member is and what we do. The truth is, it depends. Around our office people like to say, “If you’ve seen one community health center… you’ve seen one community health center.” As HealthCorps members, our roles vary as much as our health centers do. One of the program’s biggest selling points to me was that we are not allowed to do anything that anyone else at the office already does. This means we are free to come in, start new projects, think creatively, and explore our interests.
In October, I dove headlong into the Affordable Care Act, insurance, and Medicaid in Connecticut. My primary role at CHCACT, at least to start, was to serve as a liaison between the enrollment workers (certified application counselors) at all of our community health centers and Access Health CT, the marketplace established through the Affordable Care Act. I troubleshot eligibility questions, ordered marketing materials, and helped facilitate weekly conference calls with the CACs.
Getting insurance is confusing, and using it can be even more daunting. As an aspiring medical student I had done my fair share of shadowing doctors. I came to HealthCorps with some exposure to the clinical side of medicine. My HealthCorps experience, however, was from a new perspective. It was a chance to see another side of the medical team. A side that is imperative to a patient’s health. Enrollment workers are the access point to care for many patients. Now, as I move on to medical school, I will hold with me the experience of seeing some of the hurdles a patient faces just to get into the doctor’s office.
In February, my role expanded. Open Enrollment ended and I had the time to explore new projects. My supervisor, Deb Polun, mentioned CHCACT’s blog and how it would be interesting to make videos on different programs the health centers have. From February until July I made 16 videos. I had never edited video before but I was afforded the opportunity and time to learn. In my year of service I also helped write (and receive) a grant for $40,000, worked on a mapping project that showed legislators the use of health centers among their constituents, and also participated in weekend service projects.
HealthCorps gave me the flexibility and space to explore my interests and find ones I didn’t know I had. I am grateful to everyone who offered advice/help/encouragement over the service year. Thanks especially to the CACs and to Deb Polun, your dedication inspired me throughout the year! I hope our paths cross again. – Sam
Current HealthCorps member Naomi Gyasi caught up with a few former Community HealthCorps members to reflect on their year of service and to talk about how it has impacted their lives. Read Naomi’s interviews below!
Sheri Pascal What’s your name? Where did you serve as a Community HealthCorps member?
My name is Sheri Pascal; I served at UCFS in Norwich. How did your service year go? And what was the best part about serving?
It was wonderful. The best parts about it were the service projects and also being a case manager. The case management role was new and I started a new program my first year. Why did you do two terms of service and how did it affect your career path?
I did two terms because I wanted to see more of the case management project through. I was fortunate to get a position, as a nurse, for the behavioral health service department at my Health Center. How did you make an impact in the community you served in? I helped clients with transportation, clothing, and childcare, pre-visit planning; basically addressing any barriers to the client’s being able to come in for their behavioral health appointment. How does Community HealthCorps make an impact in the community? Community HealthCorps makes an impact by helping people in underserved communities. We can help by making our community healthier. Would you recommend service to a friend or a family member? Why or why not? My middle daughter did City Year and my son did VISTA so I would definitely recommend AmeriCorps. Do you have anything else you want to add? Service is a value, which you have to make a commitment to; not just with healthcare but with overall doing service. We should help to make our community a better, healthier place.
Kimtuyen Tran What’s your name? Where did you serve as a Community HealthCorps member?
My name is Kimtuyen Tran and I had the pleasure of serving at Community Health Services Inc. in Hartford, CT.
How did your service year go? And what was the best part about serving? My service year was such a great year for me! I had the opportunity to make lifelong friends who I am still in very close contact with. I also had the ability to learn about public health and community healthcare first hand. I think the best part about serving for me was working with so many diverse people because of the community we are in. From my fellow co-workers to patients, every day was a new learning experience! How did service affect your career/school path? I can truly say that my service year only further pushed me to want to pursue medicine and public health. Taking all the experiences and lessons I have learned, I cannot see myself pursuing a medical career in the private sector. I truly see myself putting down roots where there is a medical need and desire to work with the community. The service year has also helped me recognize my strengths and skills that could prove to be useful in a healthcare administration position that I would not have considered before. How did you make an impact in the community you served in? I believe that when I was serving in my Community HealthCorps position, I had a direct impact on patients’ lives because I was their advocate. I made sure I got the necessary appointments when it was imperative they be seen by a specialist. I believe I formed meaningful relationships with my patients because they felt comfortable asking questions and calling me when they needed things. How does Community HealthCorps make an impact in the community? I believe motivated Community HealthCorps members who genuinely care about the areas they serve, can truly have an impact on their communities because it can be seen in the service they provide. Would you recommend service to a friend or a family member? Why or why not? I would recommend service to friends or family members as long as they are self-motivating and driven. The program year is strenuous and is not a good fit for someone who is complacent and takes no for an answer. I think that service is something everyone should experience, but only if they are in the right mindset. Do you have anything else you want to add? Community HealthCorps is the reason I am a full time employee at the same health center that I served! I believe that it proves that as long as you work hard and genuinely show interest, doors can open for you even when you don’t expect them to.
Kylie O’Donnell What’s your name? Where did you serve as a Community HealthCorps member? My name is Kylie O’Donnell and I served as a CHC at Community Health Services in Hartford CT. How did your service year go? And what was the best part about serving? I really enjoyed my overall experience. I did have some financial difficulties. Staying in the program at some points seemed impossible but it taught me how to work different systems and get creative. The best part about serving was when you had the chance to really make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes you don’t get to see the impact because you’re working on the larger picture but with HealthCorps you often get to do both. How did service affect your career/school path?
My service dramatically affected my career path. I was fortunate enough to get hired full time at the center where I was a HealthCorps member. From there I’ve been working on a myriad of administrative support projects for the center and have taken a stronger interest in an administrative role. When I started HealthCorps I was unsure of what career I wanted to pursue. I often floated between admin and clinical, to this day I have moments where I double back, however, HealthCorps has given me insight into both ends of the health care spectrum. How did you make an impact in the community you served in?
I primarily worked in the referral department in addition to working on community outreach. Working in referrals can be really frustrating because you often come across the most difficult healthcare barriers. Lack of insurance, transportation, medical knowledge and income all create barriers to care for patients. It’s part of your job to minimize these barriers as much as possible and to connect patients with the services they need; in doing so you definitely feel the impact. I’ve had patients break down into tears after we (the referral team) got them successfully connected to services they have been trying to get for months or even years. How does Community HealthCorps make an impact in the community?
Community HealthCorps as a program provides a wonderful service to the state as a whole. Not only does it encourage people to pursue careers in health care it gives you the ability to experience different sides of care. This helps you find the best fit for your future career. It also gets young, motivated people thinking and acting in a more community focused direction. In addition they are a strong volunteer force. After I finished my program I found that everywhere I turned there was AmeriCorps! It’s like this hidden gem of a program and once you know about it, it’s everywhere! Would you recommend service to a friend or a family member? Why or why not?
I would absolutely recommend AmeriCorps to someone. It’s a great way to give back to the community, get real experience, make friends and learn all in the same program.
Over the past year, 18 CHCACT Community HealthCorps members have spent their time serving at member health centers in a variety of capacities. Members have served in health outreach, data analysis, health insurance enrollment and more. As we approach the end of the program year, and a new cohort of Community HealthCorps members takes shape to begin service in the fall, we put this video together in which our departing members reflect on their year of service. Enjoy!
This week we sat down with Gloria Jones, the Interim Chief Nursing Officer At Charter Oak Health Center in Hartford. Jones spoke about the recent announcement that the American Cancer Society would be continuing its $50,000 grant at the health center. The grant has allowed Charter Oak to build a robust program that ensures health center patients have access to breast screenings, health education, and follow up care. Watch the video below to hear more about the grant and how it’s used at Charter Oak!
Last week Get Centered traveled to Newtown Middle School where the Connecticut Institute For Communities (CIFC) opened a School Based Health Center (SBHC) in February of this year. The health center is located within the school and provides easy access to behavioral health and primary care services. Watch the video below for a look at Newtown’s SBHC, and to hear from their staff!