Purely Positivitea: August 2016

My Year as an AmeriCorps Member

Since my gap year post, I've been getting a lot of requests to share more about my AmeriCorps experience. I hope this helps! 

Program Overview
AmeriCorps has many programs across the country focusing on a variety of areas of service. I was in a Community HealthCorps, which focuses on health care in underserved populations. The program I did was with a large Federally Qualified Community Health Center (FQHC). The organization has 5 health centers throughout the county and 6 School Based Health Centers. 

The centers serve a large population of medically underserved individuals and families. The health care provided is comprehensive and follows a patient centered care and "medical home" model. (for more information on the patient centered medical home click here) For example, at a single location, there were areas for family physician visits, dental visits, women's health visits, WIC, Wellness, and behavioral health integration specialists (social workers and mental health counselors) all under one roof to ensure patients are having their needs met. There is also a dental van that visits schools and the school based health centers are fully equipped/staffed by a nurse practitioners (this way, parents, who usually day labor or have hourly jobs don't have to leave work and kids don't have to leave school for their medical needs). AmeriCorps members are in different departments, including WIC, Wellness, Insurance Outreach & Enrollment, and School Based Health. I was in School Based Health.

For this program, you commit to an 11 month term of service for a total of 1,700 hours in this program. A stipend of ~$12,580 for the year is broken down and disbursed on a biweekly basis to aid with living costs (housing is not provided). At the end of the term, you receive an education award of ~$5,000 to apply to previous or future school loans!

Day to Day
As I mentioned, I was a part of the School Based Health Centers (SBHC)! You're probably wondering what an SBHC is. Basically, it is a medical office located in the school that offers all of the services a doctor's office would. It is staffed by a nurse practitioner and medical assistants, and fully equipped for things like physicals, labs, and more. This way, students can have their medical needs met without missing classes and parents also don't need to miss work. It's a really amazing program for the whole community.

My primary duty as an AmeriCorps member is this department was health education. There was a school district wide after school program, and we would teach the same set of students each week about different monthly health topics. These topics included heart healthy eating, alcohol and drug awareness, stress management, and dental hygeine, just to name a few. We based our lessons on the Health Smart evidence based curriculum and created engaging, fun material to get the kids involved and interested in taking control of their health. It was very reawrding because the students got really into it and looked forward to having us each week. They also told us their success stories on how they got their families to switch from white rice to brown rice or how they tried a healthy recipe we made in class at home. It was great and I really miss them!

Aside from teaching after school, we also ran an after school program called Future Health Care Leaders for high school students. The club provided those interested in pursuing a health career with exposure to different careers and connections to professionals in the field. It was definitely the kind of club I wish I had available to me when I was in high school. We also did a number of special projects including hand washing lessons, dental assemblies open airways for asthma classes, and red ribbon week in the schools.

On Fridays, we got together with the rest of the AmeriCorps wide projects for "team fridays" where we ould do other community service projects with high risk populations including veterans, foster children, homeless, and children at risk for obesity.

I know that's a lot of information, but the main things in my weekly schedule looked a little something like this:

Final Thoughts 
Like I mentioned in my "To Gap Year or Not to Gap Year?" post, I had the time of my life in AmeriCorps and I am so happy that I chose to do it for my gap year. Now that I am in medical school, I definitely miss my students and my coworkers, but the lessons they taught me and the memories we share will always stay with me. If you have any questions about AmeriCorps or other gap year options, leave a comment or send me an email! 

White Coat Ceremony, Part Two

It's official! I am a first year medical student. It's so surreal and I still can't believe that I can finally say that. I definitely thought I was going to get around to this post sooner (aka before my first day of classes) BUT between orientation, my boyfriend visiting, the ceremony itself, and getting ready for the first day of classes, let's just say that things got a little hectic! 

The second ceremony happened on the last day of orientation. (If you're confused about why I had two ceremonies, read about it here!) It was yet another sunny and BEAUTIFUL day, but then again what day isn't isn't in California? Before the ceremony, we gathered in a huge lecture hall where we learned about the history of the tradition, received our coats, uniformly folded them over our arms (in a way that would allow our "cloakers" to easily put them on us!), and finally, participated in a mass procession into an ornate theatre for the ceremony. 

As we arrived, you could already hear the cheers since the theatre was packed with everyone's family and friends. We have a pretty large class, so the ceremony itself went on for a while, but it was really special! We are separated into societies that kind of remind me of Harry Potter houses and each of us got cloaked by our respective society dean. We ended by reciting a pledge as a class, and then it was time to celebrate! They had an awesome reception for us outside complete with a steel drum band (my favorite!), refreshments, and a pretty sunset. 

Since my family is across the country, I think it worked out perfectly that they were able to make it to my first ceremony and that my boyfriend could make it for this one. With the first ceremony, I was able to share that once in a lifetime moment of having my parents help me put on my white coat. I also got to celebrate with my boyfriend, who has supported me throughout this entire journey, and had an amazing last few days of complete freedom with him before starting. My heart is FULL of love and gratitude. 

On that note, I feel honored, humbled, and blessed to be beginning this new chapter of my life. Not everyone has the opportunity to do what they truly love and are passionate about as a career and I am so excited! I've always loved learning, but I am genuinely/nerdily more excited than ever before to learn all that I can about the human body, the ethical, social, socioeconomic, and inherently human aspects of health, and to find my place as a future healer, mentor, community member, and physician. Even though the journey will be challenging, I know it will be exceedingly rewarding. 

Thank you to everyone who has been tuning in and reading my blog so far. I can't wait to share these next 4 years with you!