In addition to helping community health centers fill their service gaps, this program aims to give its members professional guidance and to develop the health care leaders of the future. CHCANYS Community HealthCorps, as well as other Community HealthCorps programs in New York State, have a reported 75% of its members remaining in the field of public health or human services either by pursuing higher education or gaining employment.
Members of this program have gone on to provide health education as a Peace Corps Volunteers, pursue bachelors and masters degrees in public health, midwifery and nursing, a few members became employees of their host health centers and many have gone on to medical school.
CHCANYS Community HealthCorps team currently has over 20 members working in full time and part time capacity. Here you can meet some of the past members and learn about their background, motivation for joining HealthCorps and their plans for the future.
Adalme: My name is Adalme Pena. I graduated from Cornell University in 2008 and for the past year, I have been working as a depression case manager in the Urban Health Plan in the South Bronx. I have always been involved in community service, while in college I helped build houses with Habitat for Humanity, tutor students, volunteer at hospitals, and worked in nursing homes. After graduating college, I decided to apply for a position that would combine my dedication for community service and my career goals in medicine.
I chose CHCANYS-Community HealthCorps because it offered me the unique opportunity to work in an underserved Latino community with patients that had many health disparities. As a depression case manager, I screen patients for depression, set up self-management goals, talk to patients with uncontrolled diabetes, participate in diabetes classes with my patients, and provide social services among other work duties.
My favorite aspect of the program is hearing back from patients that I have helped. The greatest feeling ever is helping patients decrease their depression and listening to how their lives have changed for the better. For instance, one patient told me that after attending the diabetes self-management class she has learned to eat healthier and her HbA1C levels have improved as well.
Erin: Hi, I’m Erin Girardi. I grew up in Buffalo, NY and graduated from SUNY Geneseo with my BS in Communicative Disorders and Sciences in 2007. After studying in Seville, Spain for four months I took time to explore different career fields and became really interested in public health. Without much prior experience in this field, HealthCorps seemed like the perfect way to get my foot in the door while servicing the community.
At the South Bronx Health Center for Children and Families I conduct health education workshops in the waiting area, co-facilitate the Centering Pregnancy and Well Baby Groups, and help coordinate the Reach Out and Read reading program. The wonderful staff also gives me the autonomy to start my own projects and initiatives, such as the Healthy Teen Group I run. I have learned an enormous amount about health disparities and different teaching styles.
In the fall of 2009 I will begin working on my MPH at Hunter College.
Kanyon: Born and in raised in Jamaica, I immigrate to the United States with my family seeking a better opportunity. I completed my high school education at Boys and Girls High School and matriculated at The College of Brockport, State University of New York, August 2003. During my undergraduate studies I majored in Biological Sciences because of my profound interest in the sciences.
I was unsure of what I wanted to do post undergraduate studies but after reading Jonathan Kozol’s book “Amazing Grace”, which gave detailed descriptions of the horror of life in the South Bronx, I became interested in the field of Public Health. What Kozol described wasn’t foreign to me because I too, grew up in poverty. But I found it strange that in the land of opportunity many citizens didn’t have health insurance and as a result their health was deteriorating; schools lack basic supplies, which posed another issue for the children who rely heavily on the public school system as their ticket out of abject poverty. I really wanted to be a positive influence and wanted to effect change so I joined AmeriCorps/HealthCorps. This has proven to be one of my best decisions ever. I now work with Montefiore School Health Program, which has 16 clinics in the elementary, middle and high schools located in low income areas throughout the Bronx. The clinics offer a myriad of health services ranging from physical health to mental health to reproductive health.
My role in school health program is as a Health Educator. I work at the elementary and junior high school level, educating students about asthma and how to effectively manage their asthma. I enjoy working in these settings because I enjoy interacting with children, I also get to be a big kid and I love the positive response I get from them in and outside the classroom. I treat them like family and they see me as someone they can look up to. I also work with our Community Health Organizers to do camp outreach and Health promotions in our schools.
After doing national service for 9 months, I am 100% sure Public Health is the way to go. My aim is to earn a Masters in Public Health and possibly work at the Centers for Disease Control.
Brittany: Hi, my name is Brittany Charlton. I serve as the HealthCorps Member at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, one of the country’s only LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Federally Qualified Health Centers. I split my time between the HIV Prevention, Outreach, and Care Coordination Departments. By providing care, social services, and education, I aim to help one the most marginalized communities empower itself. Overseeing the federally-funded Cancer Screening Program, I am dramatically increasing enrollment of uninsured patients for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screenings. In hopes of making more systemic change, I also speak to the larger public at medical schools, city hospitals, and community based organizations about the importance of providing LGBT-sensitive health care.
Overall, my year of national service enables me to connect with my community before returning to research. I also use my AmeriCorps volunteer time to give back in other ways like through birth doula work as well as through service to professional organizations like The American Public Health Association.
My experience includes public health work in Congressman Jerrold Nadler’s District Office, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Capitol Hill Office, and with organizations like NARAL, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Reproductive Rights. I have also worked as a political strategist with organizations like the Center for American Progress and MoveOn.org. I hold a BA from The New School, where I also founded and chaired the first ever University-wide student government. Following my AmeriCorps service, I will return to graduate studies at Harvard School of Public Health.
Dariana: Hi, I’m Dariana Pichardo. I received my Bachelors of Arts from City College of New York on May 2008. I’m planning to attend Metropolitan College of New York in the Fall of 2009 to attain my Master’s in Public Administration. After obtaining my Master’s I will go on and work on a PhD degree. The reasons why I chose to serve as an AmeriCorps member was because I wanted to make a difference in a community in need, wanted to grow in my professional and personal life and wanted to be part of a great volunteer experience. I chose CHCANYS-Community Healthcorps because I wanted to gain experience and knowledge in the health field which I didn’t have before serving. Also, through CHCANYS I was giving an opportunity to serve in the South Bronx community in which I live in. During my year service with AmeriCorps, I served as a Case Manager at Urban Health Plan, Inc. in the South Bronx. As a Case Manager I provided social services needs to patients. In my year of service I attained a lot of experience. I first started as a Depression Collaborative Case Manager. Working in the Depression Collaborative, I conducted depression screenings, facilitated psycho-therapy appointments, developed self-management goals and follow ups on patients. Further into my year of service I developed experience in intensive case management in the social service area, conducted new patient intake screenings and health education. My favorite aspect of this program has been all the trainings and workshops that I was able to attend as a member, CHCANYS conference being one of them. The trainings and workshops have helped me in my professional growth. My favorite aspect of my position was that I was able to further explore beyond my initial assignment. I had room for growth, development and flexibility. As an AmeriCorps member I attained a lot more than what I expected. I had a great Program Manager and fellow members to make this year a great experience for me.
Justine:When I graduated from Muhlenberg College in 2008 after studying English and Public Health, I wanted to pursue a career in the public health field and pursue a Masters in Public Health degree. I was told by a colleague during my internship at Lehigh Valley hospital about the AmeriCorps program. I started looking at the open positions on the website and I found the CHCANYS Community HealthCorps which perfectly fit into my goals to work as a health educator. I applied to the CHCANYS program and, after going on my initial interview, picked out a number of positions within HealthCorps that I thought would be of interest to me. My first choice was to work in the Nutrition Health Educator position at Urban Health Plan because the obesity epidemic has always been an interest of mine. After interviewing with Elvira and other members of Nutrition and Fit-4-Life and meeting with the then Nutrition Health Educator, Michael, I was sure this was the position that was right for my interests. I was offered the position and accepted. After serving in the Nutrition Department of Urban Health Plan, my passion for eliminating the obesity epidemic has grown stronger along with my passion for helping the underserved. The thing I enjoy most about the Community HealthCorps program is the variety of experiences we are able to get from the program that we would not be able to get elsewhere. We have the freedom to work in a variety of capacities both at our sites and through outside service projects that give us well rounded knowledge about different fields within community health. At my position, I enjoyed the freedom to pursue a variety of interests within the program. The freedom my supervisor gave me to make the position something that was unique to me was a blessing. I was able to pursue interests in breastfeeding, postpartum adjustment issues, event planning and affordable healthy eating for South Bronx residents. This year has been a unique and wonderful experience, one that will shape my future as I go on to pursue a Masters in Public Health concentrating in epidemiology where I hope to pursue a career helping to eliminate the obesity epidemic.
Natasha: I was born and raised in the Bronx with my parents and brother who have taught me the importance of my Puerto Rican heritage, pursuing my education, and compassion for the less fortunate. I have always enjoyed working and volunteering in the health care setting and have been avidly doing so since high school.
When I first learned of HealthCorps I was excited about the fact that members are essential in their service projects and not just volunteers brought in take care of excess paperwork. I also was very impressed by the professional development and encouragement given to members that want to pursue careers in health care.
Being able to give back to a community in my hometown of the Bronx was also another amazing incentive to join.
I am currently working as a case manager with the Depression Collaborative at Urban Health Plan located in the South Bronx. I screen patients coming in to see their primary physician for depression and I also provide patients enrolled in the collaborative with telephone support, psychiatry and psychotherapy referrals, community resources, and any support they need to feel better with their depression.
I will be returning to Yale University in the Fall to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in History of Science/History of Medicine. After graduation I plan to obtain my M.P.H. and eventually a Ph.D. in epidemiology.
Manik: I came to New York in 2004 after graduating from college. I have a strong interest in social justice policy and public health.
I believe in national service as a requisite for citizenship. I became interested in AmeriCorps when I met AmeriCorps members when I worked in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco on a needle exchange program and a homeless health
Direct a mentoring program for high school students who are interested in the health careers. Students are matched with a mentor who works in the health professions during the length of the school year. I teach seminars and work individually with students to help provide them with the skills necessary to go on to college.
Will be attending medical school in August 2006.
Terry: I am an alumnus of the Colgate College, class of 2004. Throughout my college years I was a member of various volunteer organizations. In 2004-2005 I spent a year on a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship in Korea before joining CHCANYS Community HealthCorps.
HealthCorps is an organization that combined both my interests in direct community service and healthcare. It gave me the chance to learn first - hand what barriers are present in accessing healthcare for underserved populations, as well as, offering me the experience and understanding of how major health disparities are being address.
At the South Bronx Health Center for Children and Families (SBHCCF) I conduct waiting area health education activities, work on developing the SBHCCF Pharmacy Assistance Program to assist and advocate for uninsured and underinsured patient in accessing free medications. I also coordinate the Reading Program to promote early childhood literacy and represent the clinic at health fairs.
In the future, I hope to go to medical school and become a MD/MPH doctor that works in underserved ‘high need’ populations. My goal is to increase the availability of quality health care, and strengthen, and emphasize the importance of preventative healthcare.
Charlene: I am a senior at John Jay College, majoring in Criminal Justice and Deviant Behaviors. I am originally from Jamaica, but I now reside in the Bronx.
I wanted to join the HealthCorps mainly because I saw the difficulties that my best friend had when she tried to obtain health insurance during her pregnancy. I want our society to be different, and one of the ways to improve the lives of individuals is to increase access to health care.
I am in charge of the Reach Out and Read (ROR) program at Urban Health Plan. There I teach children and parents the value of reading through waiting room presentations and one-on-one reading.
After I finish my degree, I would love to work at a criminal facility, where I would teach adolescence the value of learning. I want them to go out in society to be productive citizens by ensuring that they have the knowledge and skills to succeed.
Sandy: I grew up in Southington, Connecticut with my parents and my older brother. After high school, I attended the University of Chicago, where I received a BA in Biology and Anthropology and completed pre-med requirements.
I joined HealthCorps hoping to gain work experience in both the health care field and the non-profit world. Coming right out of college with no real experience, HealthCorps was a great way to get my foot in the door.
I currently work as a health educator for Urban Health Plan in the Bronx. I run the Community Health Resource Room at MS 201. We provide health education for the school’s students as well as health-related workshops and events for parents and the Hunts Point community.
I’m looking forward to spending another year in my current position, this time as a full-time employee for Urban Health Plan rather than HealthCorps. After that I plan to pursue an MPH, with a focus on policy and management. Eventually I hope to attend medical school as well so that I can both practice medicine and participate in the making of policies that impact the health care field on a daily basis.
Cecibel: I was born in Ecuador. I have done about 15 years of volunteer missionary work in Ecuador and Honduras to help poverty stricken people improve their quality of life.
I wanted to learn new skills, gain experience working in the medical field, and help people at the same time.
I have two projects: For the Cancer Collaborative I do outreach to increase awareness among our patient population cancer screening exams, such as Mammograms, Pap Tests, FOBT, and colonoscopies, and then make appointments for these exams to be performed. For the Diabetes Support – I perform outreach among diabetes patients and organize Diabetes Management classes. So far these classes are benefiting almost 30 patients.
I would like to get further training to work as a nutritionist or a physical therapist.
Olivia: From a young age, I have worked and volunteered in the non-profit arena, mainly in the field of public health. I further developed my knowledge of public health by studying international health at McGill University, where I earned a Bachelor of Arts
I joined HealthCorps for the opportunity to work in public health at a community level. I chose to work in NYC because the city is a global leader in public health.
I work at the Asthma Free School Zone, a small organization that aims to reduce asthma related illness and absenteeism by reducing environmental asthma triggers in and around schools. The focus of my work is providing educational sessions to teachers, parents, and community members about reducing asthma triggers in the classroom and in the home.
My goal is to work in environmental public health at an international level. As an AmeriCorps member, I have gained valuable insight into community and citywide public health, which I hope will help me to understand health on a local level while working on an international scale.
Ellen: My hometown is Barker, New York, a small, rural village just north of Buffalo. After high school, I attended Boston University in Boston, MA, where I studied international relations and history.
Community service has long been a staple in my life. My experiences include volunteering at local hospitals during high school, conducting prospective student tours during college, and volunteering with the Salvation Army, Concern Ireland, and the United Way.
HealthCorps offered an opportunity to explore health care, work with poor communities, and build professional skills outside of an academic setting. I coordinate a cancer screening education project at the Institute for Urban Family Health. Through education sessions and outreach, I enable patients to complete preventative screenings for colon, breast and cervical cancer.
I plan to attend Columbia University School of Nursing in May 2006 for a graduate program in nursing and nurse-midwifery. As a nurse-practitioner and midwife, I hope to work globally to improve the health of women and their communities.
Rachelle: I am of Jamaican and Cuban decent. My father works for the US Federal Government and my mother owns and operates a preschool. I finished HS and went on to pursue a degree in Business Administration. In 2003, I completed 12 months of full-time service at CAMBA Brooklyn’s Healthy AmeriCorps.
I decided to join the CHCANYS HealthCorps because my first experience in AmeriCorps was so rewarding that I had to take advantage of the opportunity one more time. For a young woman like me that is figuring out exactly what career path she wants to take, AmeriCorps is a great stepping stone and the experience is next to none.
I am currently serving as a Patient Services Associate at the New York Children’s Health Project. As a Patient Services Associate I handle all the linguistics of NYCHP’s Reading Project (Reach Out an Read). I also work with the nutrition department at selected shelters and perform other tasks related to direct patient services (i.e. food pantry, health info and referrals).
In the future, I plan on completing a master’s degree program in Public Health or Social Work and obtaining a rewarding position in that field.
Yvonne: A 2005 graduate George Washington University with a BS in Exercise Science. Founding member of Epsilon Sigma Alpha a national service sorority and youngest of two daughters.
I joined HealthCorps because I wanted to do volunteer work full-time. I also needed a paying job. I joined HealthCorps because I want to pursue a career in healthcare and this gives me that opportunity to get experience in a Healthcare setting.
I am currently the Program Coordinator for Reach Out and Read. Reach Out and Read is an early literacy program for children ages 6 months to 5 years. My responsibilities include supplying the doctors with books at three sites, book orders and the recruitment, training and supervising volunteers.
I plan to get my BS/MSN in Nursing, become a Family Nurse Practitioner and eventually open my own medical practice and a Community Health Center.