Meet our Members!

Name: Kathryn Green
Position: Patient Assistance Program Liaison
Hometown: Colonial Heights, VA
College: University of Virginia
Why did you join PHC? To help promote access to care for the underserved and to gain experience in the health field.
What are your future plans? I will be attending graduate school to obtain a Master’s in Health Administration.
What is one thing you would change about health care? I hope that one day, affordable, quality health care would be available to everyone.

Because we all want to know…

Typical packed lunch? Anything from a protein bar and apple, to whatever Emily and I can find in Rite-Aid, to a salad.
If you were a crayon, what color would you be? An orange and blue swirl because I constantly annoy my roommates by talking about UVa.
What is the strangest food you have ever eaten? Escargot, not strange for most people, but for picky me…that was cray.
Funniest PHC memory? One day while I was serving at Health Center 6, I dropped a huge box of old patient folders while trying to take them down from the top of the refrigerator. To add to the embarrassment, there was a patient in the office. Oopsies. 

Bittersweet

Our days in the Philadelphia Health Corps (PHC) are numbered. With less than a month left at our service sites, these last few weeks have been bittersweet. For the past 10 months, I have served as the Patient Assistance Program Liaison. My position is similar to that of the PAP advocates, but with a few different requirements. I have been lucky enough to be able to travel to different health centers to give other advocates a helping hand. Some of the centers are so busy that it is hard for the members there to get ahead. From calling in refills, to doing re-enrollments, and logging medications, I help them with whatever they need. I have truly enjoyed my position because it has enabled me to get closer with other members. It has also allowed me to see all the unique patient populations at the different health centers. I have learned so much from co-members and patients alike.  Although I love traveling to the various health centers, I love going back to my home base at Strawberry Mansion and working with my co-advocate and patients there. It is such a good feeling to know that I have built relationships with these patients.  While there are moments of uncertainty, most patients are so appreciative of what we do.

This year has definitely had its share of challenges but there are so many things that I will miss. I will miss everything from the daily Google instant messaging with my fellow members when we have a free minute, to living with four other PHC members, to seeing everyone at member meetings, service projects, and on adventures in Center City. I will also miss seeing my fellow PHC members during “training and competition” for AMERIKICKS, a kickball team formed by the 2011-2012 PHC Members for an adult kickball league in Philadelphia.

What I will miss the most, however, are our patients and talking with them about anything from what they did for the weekend to stories about their children and grandchildren.  I have learned so much from these patients. Many of them have an amazing faith that you can see the second they walk through the door. No matter what hardships they have endured, they persevere. They have taught me that no matter where life takes me, as long as I remain happy and faithful, I will make it through. I am so grateful for this opportunity and will carry what I have learned with me forever.

-Kathryn Green, Philadelphia Department of Public Health

Meet our Members!

Name: Tess Thorman
Position: Health Education and Outreach Associate at 11th St. Family Health Services
Hometown: Fremont, CA
College: Oberlin College
Why did you join PHC? I joined PHC because I wanted to learn about community health models, and figure out if that’s a career path I’m interested in.
What is one thing you would change about health care? I wish health care would be preventative instead of treatment-based.

Because we all want to know…
Favorite thing about Philly? Roof decks! I’m currently planning one that has an edible garden, a trellis, a hammock, a built in seating area with a low table, a foot heater, and a hot tub with a glass side that faces the skyline.
Typical packed lunch? Last week, we got four heads of lettuce in our CSA, and since then I’ve been eating salad every day for lunch. I can’t even remember pre-salad life.
Favorite place in the city? My favorite street is the block of S Darien Street between Fitzwater and Bainbridge! It’s one of those little tiny streets—literally, no more than four feet from sidewalk to sidewalk—and everyone has plants in front of their doors. I like to cut through on my way to Center City, although it was almost awkward the time some residents were having a dinner party in the street, and I thought about trying to squeeze past.
Favorite SEPTA experience? I was waiting on Locust for the bus, for probably 20 minutes, when I saw it coming– and then I saw it turn right, instead of picking me up. A SEPTA worker in one of the white SUVs must have seen my sad, sad face, because he stopped to tell me the bus was detouring, and proceeded to drive me most of the way home. I’m pretty sure that will never happen again, but it was the nicest thing!

Channeling Energy for Progress

For my year of service with the Philadelphia Health Corps (PHC), I have been serving at the 11th Street Family Health Services Center, a wonderful integrative care center where I can pretty much do any project that will help this community become healthier. Yet, I’ve been feeling kind of down, lately; am I making a significant difference, or just a little one? How can I know that all the work I’ve done this year will be continued in my absence, and does it matter?

Last Wednesday, the Lower North Philadelphia Sports Collaborative hosted its first Field Day, with help from some fantastic volunteers (including PHC members!). About 50 kids between ages four and twelve ran around for almost two hours and enjoyed some healthy snacks. Still, I was frustrated by how last minute the arrangements had been, and how difficult it was to get everyone at the same meeting. Can you believe it? I organize a collaborative of community groups that creates an event to give a bunch of kids a safe, fun fitness experience, and I feel defeated by how haphazardly it comes together.

The turning point happened only later, after a powerful lecture on health equity and race by the National Director of Health Programs at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Shavon Arline-Bradley spoke about the hopelessness that arises from being oppressed by a system promising wealth and individual success to hard workers. She talked about giving up, and about refusing to speak up for your rights out of the fear that more rights will be taken away from you. These ideas are not new to me, but in the day to day, I tend to see patients as individuals with complete freedom of choice, and myself working in a vacuum where my goals are obvious and extremely important.

I guess I have always subconsciously imagined that the payoff from hard, heartfelt work is backlit by a flashing neon sign. Somehow, that Field Day should have been a cinch to plan, and neighborhood children should have flocked to the field with parents, grills, and lawn chairs in tow. If I am chasing that kind of success, I may want to pick a career that doesn’t directly address systemic inequities. When I work hard and success still doesn’t come easily, I start to think that maybe I am not very useful after all, and maybe my community would do just as well without me, and then, thank goodness, someone like Ms. Arline-Bradley reminds me that checking out will merely channel energy away from progress.

It will always feel good to see kids hula hooping enthusiastically as a result of my work, but after that lecture, I think I’m more motivated by looking at the big picture. I will have to periodically remember that NOT fighting inequities perpetuates them, and, therefore, working against them is the only viable option. I will have to see every program that I lead as a vote of confidence in the patients I serve, because that’s what it is. And, most of all, I will have to take more joy in small successes, and see them as stepping stones to the future that I want to create.

-Tess Thorman, 11th Street Family Health Services

Meet our Members!

Name: Soha Shah
Position: Health and Fitness Advocate at Penrose Elementary School
Hometown: Metuchen, NJ
College: Princeton University
Why did you join PHC? I wanted to spend time helping underserved children lead healthier lifestyles.
What are your future plans? I plan on attending medical school and would like to use the skills I will gain to continue helping my community.
What is one thing you would change about health care? I would love to make preventive healthcare more accessible to low income populations.
Because we all want to know…
Favorite SEPTA experience? I’m on the trolley at the same time a lot of kids are going to school and daycare. One time I waved to a 4 year-old girl as she walked past. Later when she was getting off she stopped at my seat, said “Bye bye, friend,” and walked off the trolley. By far my most adorable Septa experience.
#1 most played song on your iPod? “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? Fo’Shoha. Fo’sho.
Typical packed lunch? PB&J and an apple. Sadly very similar to what I ate all through elementary school.

Jump!

“Miss Soha, we got jump rope this week?”

Day in and day out, I would be asked this question, inwardly groan, and respond wearily, “Yup. Thursday afternoon, just like always.”

One of the responsibilities I have as a Health and Fitness Advocate at Penrose Elementary is holding after school clubs. Over the year, we have done everything from Chess Club to “Kidz Fitness,” some only lasted for a few weeks and others have run all year. Jump Rope Club was one of the longest running clubs and extremely popular among the students. Unfortunately, that did not mean it was my favorite club. We met for an hour and half every week but Lisa, my fellow member, and I got to jump for maybe ten minutes. The rest of the time was spent breaking up fights, calming crying students, trying to get everyone quiet enough to listen to directions, or chasing down truant students in the hallways. Countless times, we debated ending the club permanently but always were swayed by how much the kids loved Jump Rope Club. Many of them were overweight and looking for a fun way to exercise. But the club was so difficult to run that it could not continue unchanged.

We decided that every week we should start by sitting all the students down and reviewing our expectations for them. Most of them were fairly standard- don’t hit anyone, don’t call anyone names, ask for permission to leave the room- but by repeating them over and over, the kids got better at following the rules. We also had to add stricter consequences for not listening to the rules- the first time you got a warning, the second time you would leave the club. Finally, using the principle that you can get a kid to do almost anything if you make a game out of it, we decided the student with the best behavior would be the week’s winner. It was incredible to see how the students’ attitudes improved with these changes. They began teaching each other how to double dutch, sharing the equipment, figuring out games they could all play together, and congratulating one another for a job well done. The last Jump Rope Club was last Thursday and I was surprised at how maturely the students acted for the last few weeks and how sad I was to see it end. The best part of my position is that I get to see all the students develop over the year and it is even more thrilling when this occurs in the most unlikely of situations.

-Soha Shah, Health and Fitness Advocate