Serving for Prevention & Women’s Health: A Story of Two Community HealthCorps Members

By Anastasia Sonneman, Program Specialist, NACHC-Community HealthCorps®, with stories from Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps Members, Noor Tell & Amy Ly

Cervical Cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women throughout the world. In the U.S. alone, over 12,000 women are diagnosed each year, a third of whom die as a result. Fortunately, this type of cancer is highly preventable with the help of regular screenings and follow-up care. A factor making January’s Cervical Health Awareness Month such an important cause to highlight. To do just that, we’re sharing two stories of Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps members who support women’s health as a part of their service, including promoting the importance of cervical cancer screenings. Both Noor Tell, who serves with our Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program team, and Amy Ly, with our William F. Ryan Network team, have discovered a passion for preventive health and, more importantly, for the patients and communities they serve.

***

“It is seven in the morning on a Saturday. The morning is brisk and the sun is starting to peek out, slowly lighting up the sky. The hallways of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program, the health center where I serve, were bustling with ladies patiently waiting for the annual Women’s Health Fair. As a second-year Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps member, I had participated in this event last year, and although I was still nervous, my nerves were soon replaced by excitement as I saw ladies walk through the doors and into the lobby. I saw women from Pine Street Inn, women I have encountered in my health education groups, and ladies that I say hello to every day in passing. Throughout my service, I had built relationships with these women, and today was a day to celebrate them. As the fair proceeded, ladies crowded the many health tables we had set up, such as Narcan training, Hep C education, Oral Health, vaccinations, mammogram and pap smear sign-up, tobacco cessation, and much more.

NoorTell-WhyIServe

Noor Tell on why she serves 

My role was to educate participants on the importance of cervical and breast cancer screenings and motivating them to sign up for the same-day mammogram and pap smears available through the health center. Throughout the course of the day, I met a handful of breast cancer survivors, many of them having battled cancer while experiencing homelessness. They spoke of their battle with strength, as if cancer was the easiest of barriers they have conquered. Moments like these remind me how special it is to honor the individual stories of our patients and how thankful I am the simply cross paths with them. That day, we were able to get 25 ladies screened for cervical and breast cancer. I cannot think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning!”

 

-Noor Tell, Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps Member
2014-2016 Boston Health Care for the Homeless Team

“These past three months as a Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps member at the William F. Ryan Community Health Network has made me realize a lot. My role focuses on outreach and enrollment for the Cancer Services Program (CSP), providing uninsured patients’ access to breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screenings. Every encounter with a CSP patient is delightful; many of them thank me for assisting with appointments and case management.

One of my most memorable moments happened recently while enrolling a returning CSP patient. During our one-hour consultation, Ms. W, who was able to detect pre-breast cancer because of this program, exclaimed:

 ‘I don’t understand how you can do all of this; it is amazing. Thank you so much. I would not be here if it wasn’t for this program and for people like to you help guide me through this.’

When I heard her say this, it hit me just how much I genuinely enjoy the

RyanChelsea-SmokingCessation

Amy Ly with her Community HealthCorps team members

interactions with my patients, especially knowing that I can make their day a little bit brighter by helping them better manage their health and potentially mitigating such a health risk, like cancer. After all, living in New York City is expensive, often adding to the difficulties many face with maintaining a healthy lifestyle or gaining access to health insurance and other health-related benefits. Hearing the stories of my patients and the barriers they face has enhanced my desire to treat others with compassion, respect, and kindness. My experience with the CSP has also encouraged my decision to work in family and preventive medicine as a Physician Assistant. I foresee continuing this growth of becoming a better person, both personally and professionally.

 

-Amy Ly, Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps member
2015-2016 William F. Ryan Network team

***

To learn more about how you can join the fight against Cervical Cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.

 

Posted in AmeriCorps, Boston Health Care for the Homeless, Cervical Health Awareness Month, community healthcorps, William F. Ryan Network | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Apple A Day

By Lindsey Killett, Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps member, Hudson River HealthCare team

Blog picture

Lindsey at her Community HealthCorps Service Site

With New York apple season coming to an end, November’s focus on diabetes awareness, and the holiday season right around the corner, our Community HealthCorps® team recently had the opportunity to combine all three of these occasions as a way to inspire healthy choices for the patients we serve. Every year in late October, our Program Site, Hudson River Health Care (HRHCare), hosts an annual Food Day celebration, inspiring patients to commit to making changes in their diets and working to solve food related issues in the community. As a part of this celebration, each Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps member on our team hosted an “apple crunch” event at their individual service site to highlight apples as a main ingredient for healthy holiday recipes and in daily cooking and diets as a way to manage chronic conditions like diabetes.

This event was particularly exciting for me and several of my teammates who support and lead health education workshops for HRHCare Diabetes and Chronic Disease Self-Management programs. We were thrilled for the opportunity to empower our patients with another creative way to take control of their health.

To prepare for the apple crunch, our team collected over 1,800 apples from local farms in the Hudson Valley region. We then created apple recipes,

Adin and Dima

HRHCare Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps Members hosting “Apple Crunch” at their Service Site.

resource guides listing local farms and farmer’s markets (including information on any government assistance programs that are accepted), and fun displays. In no time, Food Day arrived! We set up at the front of our health center service sites to distribute the donated apples, recipes, and resource guides to patients.

It’s so fitting that one of the symbolic meanings of an apple is knowledge. Giving each patient that visited HRHCare an apple represented the continuous exchange of knowledge between health professionals, patients, and community members to better increase access to care for all and spread awareness of healthy eating. So far in my service, I’ve found that this factor is essential to making a real difference in the life of a patient. My teammate, Maxine Harris, pinpoints the connection perfectly:

“Treatment from a provider is only the beginning of a patient’s journey to a healthier life. A major portion of having a disease like diabetes is learning how to live with it. It can be overwhelming to go at it alone, but having a model to follow and encouraging support takes a bit of the strain off.”

Amenia Heart of ApplesTo me, that’s why events like Food Day are so important. They give individuals we serve the knowledge of how to take care of their health long after they leave their doctor’s office. It’s also an opportunity to use our creativity and resources as Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps members to transform something as simple as an apple into a healthier future.

Posted in community healthcorps, Food Day, Hudson River HealthCare | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

#WAD2015: Taking a Stand for Positivity

By Russell Brown, Program Specialist, NACHC-Community HealthCorps®

Today marks the 27th World AIDS Day. Every year on December 1st, we remember the more than 36 million lives lost to AIDS and urge support for the individuals who are struggling with HIV. Sadly, although the HIV virus was discovered more than two decades ago, outdated stereotypes and myths still run rampant in communities around the world. To combat ignorance, this year’s World AIDS Day theme is “Thinking Positive: Rethink HIV”—a battle cry to denounce stereotypes, myths, and misinformation about HIV and AIDS. Focusing on raising awareness and bringing a positive light to the individuals affected by this disease is particularly meaningful to me; in fact, it’s a passion I discovered four years ago on this very day.

In 2011, while serving as a Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps member with the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers team, I had the chance to plan an event for World AIDS Day with the Project Protection team. Our team’s main inspiration in planning this event was the red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV/AIDS awareness. For the week leading up to World AIDS Day, our team manned an AIDS/HIV

551654_410845308942495_301995047_n

Russell’s Community HealthCorps teammates with the Red Ribbon

informational table in the health center’s lobby. Every person that came by the table was asked to write a message on a small paper red ribbon. We combined each of those small ribbons into one 4-foot tall red ribbon filled with their hundreds of messages that ranged from names of people who had died from AIDS to words of encouragement for loved ones and strangers living with HIV. Each year for World AIDS Day, that giant ribbon is placed in the main foyer of my service site Martha Eliot Community Health Center to illustrate the impact of this disease within our local community.

The opportunity to rally the community I served around this cause on that World AIDS Day led me to take a position as an HIV tester and Medical Case Manager at Boston Children’s Hospital immediately after my year of service. There, I was able to engage adolescents—a population about which I had long been passionate—in meaningful conversations about their risk of contracting HIV and STDs, while also advocating for their health care, medication, and housing. I learned very early on that the teens with whom I worked were truly battling against the odds. Some were successful, but most struggled with taking their anti-retroviral medications; it was a burden and a frustrating constant reminder of the fact that they have HIV.

My first client at the hospital instantly comes to mind when thinking about these struggles. She was born drug-addicted and was diagnosed with HIV as a newborn. Before diving deeper into her disease, I knew I had to earn her trust. So, I decided to learn more about this young woman than what was in her medical record. For the first three months, we just chatted about situations in her life, her job, her family, her health… When I finally felt comfortable enough to bring up her HIV medication, she actually smiled and said,

“I wondered when you were going to bring it up.”

After that, she immediately opened up about her struggle with taking her medication—the exhaustion she felt from taking it every day; that one day she just decided to stop taking it. I didn’t realize how entrenched she was in her thoughts, which made it that much more difficult to talk about the real consequences she would face. But just before she left the room I said:

“You may not feel bad now when you aren’t taking your medication, but some day, you will start to get really sick. By then, there could be some damage to your body, and you may never recover. You may never again be a completely whole and healthy person like you are now.”

With those words still floating in the air between us, we said our goodbyes, and I brought her to her medical appointment. Over the course of next year and a half, we met almost every week. Luckily, she started taking her HIV medication again and tried to stay on it consistently. She changed for the better over the course of those 18 months, realizing that she had the power to control her health regardless of her HIV status. When I first found out I was leaving my position at Boston Children’s Hospital, she was one of the first people that I told. I remember our tearful hug as she said that she was going to miss me. I promised her that no matter where I went I would carry her story with me as a message of courage to see beyond this disease and embrace the life you want for yourself. To this day, she inspires me to continue raising awareness for the fight against AIDS.

***

To learn more about World AIDS Day and how you can join the movement, go to http://www.worldaidsday.org/ and follow the hashtags #WAD2015 and #ReThinkHIV on social media.

Posted in AmeriCorps Alums, community healthcorps, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, Rethink HIV, World Aids Day | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment