Our students overwhelmingly agree that it is the connection to our patient population that makes volunteering at CommunityHealth such a uniquely fulfilling experience. We asked them to share their fond memories, and they responded with enthusiasm! Check out the heartwarming stories below, but be warned—they may bring a sentimental tear to your eye!
Your Parents Must Be Very Proud
As a woman of color in medicine, there are many times that I walk into a room and I am assumed to be a nurse, interpreter, or environmental services. But in all of my years with CommunityHealth, I have always been met with an ecstatic smile. As a 3rd year medical student, I was caring for an elderly couple. I went through my questions for each of them, listened to their concerns, and presented the patients to my attending. At the end of the encounter, I’ll never forget the strong handshake from the husband as his wife said, “Echale ganas mija, tus padres deberian estar muy orgullosos. Si se puede./Keep going, your parents must be very proud. You can do it.” It reminds me of why I wanted to enter medicine to begin with. I am here to serve and give back because my community, this community has given me so much.
First Check-up in 6 Months
This past week at clinical, we added on a patient to our schedule who had not been seen at the clinic in over 6 months. He had been having difficulty finding a job and for this reason, was unable to make his appointments at CH. We had to start his care over by assessing each of his chronic diseases, including blood work and screenings. We had to refill all of his medications, which he had not had in about 4 months, including his diabetes and hypertension medications. He also had 2 acute complaints which we needed to address at this visit. It was very overwhelming at first, but the collaboration between the patient, my preceptor, lab, and pharmacy made the entire experience enjoyable. The patient was willing to follow the interventions that we recommended, including vaccinations and health screenings. He was hoping to get his medical conditions back in control with our assistance. Due to psychosocial issues, he was unable to receive his medical care for so long, which can be terrifying for patients. He was so grateful to be back at the clinic and thanked us many times throughout the visit. It was an eye opening, challenging but wonderful learning experience.
In early 2021, when the COVID vaccines became available for the patients at CommunityHealth, I was a vaccinator at some of the large-scale community events hosted by CommunityHealth. The hope, energy, and joy that I experienced on those days was beyond anything I have ever experienced and I know it will be one of the memories that stays with me throughout the rest of my life.
A Testament to Teamwork
During a time in the COVID-19 pandemic when we were conducting more primary care visits by phone, I had a telephone appointment with a patient who was just scheduled for a routine follow-up and medication refill. Initially he did not mention any complaints, but because I probed and asked him more questions about how he was doing, he admitted to some new onset worsening abdominal pain. After discussing this, I decided he could have pancreatitis or some other acute abdominal process. I got in touch with the clinic coordinator right away so the patient could be followed closely, and she scheduled him for an in-clinic follow-up the next day. I advised the patient that while this could be benign and self-resolve, he would need to present to Stroger right away if the pain worsened, he could not tolerate fluids, he began to have a fever, etc. His pain did worsen, and due to the anticipatory guidance I gave him, he did present to Stroger and indeed was diagnosed with and successfully treated for pancreatitis. I was impressed by how CommunityHealth’s processes worked together to prevent harm to a patient who might have experienced a bad outcome had there not been a routine follow-up scheduled, had he not trusted CommunityHealth enough to share his concerns, had CommunityHealth not had a relationship with Stroger to send patients there with no questions asked about their immigration status, or had there not been a clinic coordinator who pulled strings to have the patient seen in clinic if he did not present to the hospital. What a team!
Many patients have told me they had never felt listened to or truly cared for prior to coming to CommunityHealth. In other settings they have felt afraid, powerless, and judged. They consider CommunityHealth and its personnel an irreplaceable blessing, and quite a few have said they look forward to their appointments.
Overcoming the Language Barrier
This applies to many of the patients I interacted with at CommunityHealth, but their appreciation for having a provider that listens and supports them, but also having a Spanish speaking provider means so much to them! Being able to be one of those Spanish speaking providers, I can remember a lady who was telling me how important it was to her and that she is able to remember the advice of her providers when it comes from them directly in Spanish. In other healthcare settings these barriers to patientcare may not be as emphasized but at CommunityHealth I really felt like the staff made it part of the mission and I felt like I was there to contribute to that mission.
There are so many wonderful experiences at CommunityHealth, it is hard to choose just one. I really love all of the continuity I have with my patients here. For example, I have one regular patient who even though we do not speak the same language; every time I see him he yells in English “My Doctor”, which really warms my heart. He was the first patient in residency who considered me his primary care doctor, and it continues to be so special to me to take care of him.
Expanding our Community
While working a shift at my retail pharmacy, I encountered a patient that was unable to afford their medication at pickup and shared how difficult it was to get a doctor’s appointment given her language barrier. I provided her with the information for CommunityHealth and explain the serviced they provided, and the steps needed to become a patient. A week later on a follow-up call, she expressed how grateful she was for the people there that kindly helped her and thanked me for helping her throughout the process as she now had a healthcare team that would provide accessible health care without language barriers.
Health Education on Diabetic Day
One of my favorite experiences at CommunityHealth was during Diabetic Day as a first-year medical student. We provided patients with education on diabetic diets, performed diabetic foot and eye exams, and provided diabetic supplies to the Chicago community. This event was so fun because we met so many patients and I was able to work with a variety of medical students/providers from all around Chicago. I learned so much that day and I hope to participate in the event as a resident.
From Physical to Mental Health
One of my most memorable experiences at CommunityHealth was what started as a basic follow-up appointment turning into a meaningful appointment about the importance of mental health. During my shift on Saturday a patient came in for a routine check-up and a medication refill, in talking to her she seemed very sad and I asked if there was anything else that was on her mind and if she was doing okay. She looked like she was waiting for someone to ask her this and we had a conversation about how COVID is impacting her work and her living situations, and she felt overwhelmed beyond words. The focus shifted from her physical to mental health and I was able to ask her how we at CommunityHealth can help her. Thankfully on that day, we had a social services liaison that was there on-site and it took her help to make sure this patient got the help she needed. The doctor I was working with was also proactive about getting her medication for her anxiety and depression until she was further evaluated. It drove home the need for many types of health providers to meet the needs of one patient and I am so grateful CommunityHealth is a place a patient can get access to those resources.
If you were moved by these stories (and how could you not be?), please consider making a contribution to the Future of Health campaign. You generosity directly contributes to the quality care we provide our patients, as well as the top-notch training that students and residents receive at CommunityHealth.