Around 40% of our volunteers come to us through our partnerships with Chicago-area institutions such as Amita St. Joseph Hospital Chicago, Rush University Medical Center, Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, and many more. These hard-working resident physicians, medical students, pharmacy students, nursing students, and dental hygiene students are the inspiration for our Future of Health campaign! We spoke to some of these students and residents about their experiences at CommunityHealth.
“My experience at CommunityHealth has helped me establish the patient and community as the center of my practice from very early in my medical education.” – Gabriela Betancourt (UChicago)
Many students echo the sentiment that volunteering at CommunityHealth has affirmed the patient-centered nature of their practice. Dr. Susan Lopez currently facilitates the Rush resident clinic at CommunityHealth, having volunteered as a resident herself and as a medical student before that. She attests, “As students and residents, we are trainees; we are there to treat patients but also to learn. I’ve learned that the teacher is not just the chief resident or attending you are working with. Teachers can also be those who are learning along with you, because it’s near impossible to know everything in medicine. But what I’ve learned is that the patient is also your teacher. You can run a test, check an x-ray, order a scan but if you take the time to listen, the patient will lead you to where you need to be to help them.”
“I feel like my experience at CommunityHealth has really shown me that I would like to work with this patient population for the rest of my career.” – Dr. Rebecca Fitzpatrick (Rush)
For many medical providers, the uninsured population is a distant and abstract concept. In contrast, at CommunityHealth, trainees get the chance to know these patients and understand the many existing barriers to health care. In caring for vulnerable populations, they gain a well-rounded understanding of these patients’ needs. Dr. Kelsey Danley, now a resident at Rush University Medical Center, has been volunteering with us since she was a first-year medical student. “CommunityHealth taught me the importance of patient-provider communication and establishing good rapport with patients,” she says. “I learned that medicine is a lot more than physical symptoms and lab values. As a patient’s primary care provider, you need to understand all aspects of your patient, including their careers, culture, and financial situation. I bring these lessons I learned from CommunityHealth into play in my own clinic today.”
“CommunityHealth has reinforced my passion never to accept less care for people who are less privileged.” – Amy Milroy, nurse practitioner
Another unique aspect of the CommunityHealth model is that providers have the chance to treat patients without price restrictions. Unlike the health care provided by typical clinics and hospitals, CommunityHealth providers do not have to navigate confusing insurance policies and bureaucratic red tape to get patients the care they need. David Monzon, a pharmacy student at the University of Illinois Chicago, affirms the value of our model: “Oftentimes in diseases such as diabetes, some of our treatment options can be expensive, but CommunityHealth does not have to restrict those options by price alone. This approach is a great way to maximize patient outcomes.”
“I felt like they trusted me because I spoke their language and connected with them in a cultural level.” – Marisol Wences (UIC)
Whether working with medical interpreters or getting the chance to share cultural connections with patients, trainees at CommunityHealth are able to gain invaluable experience in treating a non-English-speaking population.
For some students, this may be their first time working with medical interpreters. This was the case for Malavika Prakasan, a student at Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. She remarks, “I cannot imagine a shift without the help of the volunteers who help facilitate the entire encounter, and it made me look into Medical Spanish courses so I can advocate better for my patients. In the meantime, I am so grateful CommunityHealth is a place where language barriers are not health care barriers.”
For bilingual trainees like UIC pharmacy student Marisol Wences, the ability to provide care to patients in their preferred language has been a powerful experience. In connecting with them, she has been able to build a sense of a trust that is unprecedented for many patients. “My volunteer work at CommunityHealth started during my second year of pharmacy school,” says Marisol. “While doing so, I had the opportunity to hear patients’ concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine and address them to the best of my ability and with the help of my team. It was rewarding to see patients transition from hesitation to an overwhelming acceptance to the vaccine after getting their questions answers and reassurance of the importance of getting vaccinated.”
“I appreciate how the environment at CommunityHealth is so conducive to learning. Everyone is so helpful, and ready and willing to teach.” – Julia Britto (Rush)
The success of clinic can be summed up in one word: teamwork. Amy Milroy, an “alum” of our training programs, is now a licensed
practitioner who continues to volunteer with us. “Outside of CommunityHealth, I have never encountered a place where so many passionate, likeminded individuals share a common purpose and truly succeed in bringing high-quality health care to people who lack resources,” she says. “I have seen patient outcomes at CommunityHealth that are as good or better than in health systems where many patients have private insurance and access to any health care imaginable. What I have realized is that the most important factors in achieving health and wellness goals for patients are the rapport and partnership of patients and their clinic, the drive and determination of clinicians to enact evidence-based plans of care, and the dedication of patients to follow trusted health care providers’ advice.”
We’re so proud of the atmosphere of learning and collaboration we’ve cultivated at CommunityHealth. Our dedication to quality care extends into the future, as demonstrated by the over 10,000 providers we’ve trained since our doors opened in 1993. We are committed to shaping the next generation of health care leaders, and promoting an industry standard that prioritizes the holistic needs of each patient. You can support the Future of Health today!