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My Year with the Philadelphia Health Corps

As the end of the year approaches, I find that it becomes easier to indulge in a little introspection. Through my time with the program, the work demanded little room for such self-centeredness. Ultimately, my focus was on clinic patients and the basic struggles that they must live through every day. I joined the Corps to offer an underserved community a measure of peace, a small reprieve from ailing health and poverty. If, in that process, I somehow provided a measure of happiness as well, then that seemed enough for any kind of personal fulfillment.

But now it’s almost July, and I have unpacked my share of medication, and received my share of papercuts and phone calls. I have sat with countless patients at my desk, listened to their worries, and tried, with every good intention, to deliver on my promises. I have dug around our closet for medicine that would substitute the supply that arrives from the pharmaceutical company. I have swallowed frustration over missing faxes that would delay a crucial shipment. These experiences form a simple routine from a day to day perspective. However, taken as a summation of the year, I realize they are a profound privilege of what it feels like to take responsibility for another being’s life. These patients come as utter strangers, with unfamiliar backgrounds, cultures, and burdens. Yet, in the brief time that they are in my office, between handshake and signature, there exists an intimacy and a feeling of care. In these unequivocal moments, our lives – as advocate and patient – seem to touch.

For every form of appreciation I receive, I believe my own is, if not greater, then equal in comparison. I am grateful for this unique opportunity to deliver essential care. I am grateful for all that the Prescription Assistance Program has taught me. Most of all, I am grateful that I, from a complacent upbringing with no comprehension of daily hardship, where ordinary, fleeting pleasures seem brighter and somehow sweeter too, would be granted such life-affirming work.

Guiding Lights

With healthcare in the United States at a crossroads and the Affordable Care Act slated to be fully operational on the coming New Year’s Day, it is understandable that logistics be at the forefront of debate and reform, with jargon such as “subsidies”, “tax credits”, and “out-of-pocket premiums” bandied about among various media outlets. However, despite the great hopes and expectations of this overhaul decreasing health disparities in this country, there still looms the immense problem of having to explain to a populous of people how to fully utilize a complex system that some, unfortunately, will not even be eligible for.

Fortunately, there are people in healthcare whose main focus is still to provide superlative care to all those less fortunate and uninformed on health care policy. It is that inherent conviction of placing patient care above all else that has made my short tenure with the Philadelphia Department of Health a godsend. Serving as a patient advocate has given me the responsibility of ensuring that patients, who have no insurance and nowhere else to turn, receive the treatment that they need and the quality of life they desire. Without having to worry about triaging or calculating costs of medications and deductibles, I have been able to help people of all ages and demographics better enjoy their lives and give them the peace of mind that is often lost in the labyrinth of health systems. To say that I have a single favorite moment or that I am devoid of a bad day would be untrue, but I can say that all encounters bring with them fresh perspectives as well as varying levels of satisfaction in the knowledge that the services rendered have allowed people to enjoy the daily activities that most take for granted. Thus, by serving on the front lines in underserved areas and improving overall health and wellness, one patient and family at a time, the National Health Corps have made inroads towards healthier communities, and hopefully one day by extension, happiness for all.

Name: Stephen Veideman
Position: Patient Advocate at Health Center 6
Degree: Biology
Why did you join the health corps: To obtain a broader knowledge and deeper understanding of the nation’s healthcare system
Favorite thing about Philly: The location and size of the city

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