Individuals Can Still Make A Difference  

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:32 pm by José Mayorga

Reflecting back on the summer months of 2007, it brings back warm feelings of a cramped high school classroom swarming with high school teenagers, undergraduates, medical students, residents and hundreds of nats. This past summer I had the wonderful opportunity to give back to a “Summer Project” that inspired me to become a family physician while attending medical school. The Harbor UCLA Summer Urban Fellowship is the most unique fellowship/program of its kind. You take Banning High School Students, Undergraduates and Medical Students from different parts of the country, mixed in with Harbor Residents and Attendings to create an unforgettable experience.

The Summer Project has different components:

  • Mentorship at all levels
  • Health Fairs within the Wilmington Community
  • Public Health & Poverty Medicine Lectures
  • Research Project on Children of Wilmington Access to Healthcare
  • Teen Peer Health Education
  • Clinical Experience
  • Community Health Talks

The students involved were extremely motivated to get things going. The undergrads and med students were an amazing group. Each had great strengths – to many to list – but the most impressive was how quickly they bonded with the high school students and placed these teens in critical roles in the Summer Project. It’s amazing what can happen without trying to force things, especially when people care to make a difference in others’ lives.

The Residents at first were on the outside looking in. We joined the group late because of our scheduled rotations. I remember talking to the residents and wonder what our role would be – the students had everything covered. Lucky for us, we had a new idea to introduce to the group. We created and modified various lectures to teach A Teen Peer Health Education class for the high school students. The goal for the Peer Health was to educate them in health, cultural, and social issues that affect their daily lives while providing them the confidence to teach the information to fellow teens. What made these lectures unique was we moved away from the standard lecture style format incorporated fun, interactive, and confidential exercises. The various topics covered were: Sex, Sexuality, Reproduction, STIs, HIV/AIDS, Cultural Awareness, and LGBT Issues. We also took field trips to watch Michael Moore’s Movie, Sicko and the Japanese-American Museum.

As the Summer Project continued we successfully had 2 Health Fairs in the underserved community of Wilmington, CA. The entire planning and execution of the fair was done by the students, while Residents and Attending assisted when needed. Over 500 people participated in health screenings such as Diabetes, HTN, Depression, Substance Abuse; some received mammograms, echocardiograms, and dental care. In addition, the program focused on door to door interviews for a research project looking at Children’s Access to Healthcare, Asthma and Obesity. These interviews were primarily conducted by the students in Spanish. The data analysis are ongoing but we are sure that the asthma rates in the Wilmington, CA 1.5-2.0 times the Los Angeles County rate – not surprising to some given the Port of Los Angeles resides in Wilmington.

The entire Summer Project culminated in a Health Summit held at the Banning High School Auditorium. The Summit gave the students the opportunity to analyze and present the various findings and activities of the Summer Project. Given its importance, the information presented at the Summit was broadcasted locally on various television networks (ABC, Univision, & KTLA) and written about in local newspapers. One of the proudest moments was watching several high school students be interviewed by local television reporters in regards to why Healthcare is a right for all individuals and express what they gained from participating in the Summer Project.

It may not be everyday that we see a small group of individuals make a difference but the Summer of 2007 sure did remind me that it is still possible if you try.

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