Philadelphia-area participants, including students from USciences, gather for a group photo.
The link between health science students and community-based learning cannot be made in the classroom alone. Luckily for the USciences community, students and faculty have many opportunities for enrichment through programs like Bridging the Gaps (BTG) which connects the “training of health and social service professionals with the provision of health-related services for underserved and economically disadvantaged populations.”
This year, Mary Kate McGinty P’84, MS’04, executive director of external affairs in Mayes College, served as a Small Group Leader for BTG’s Community Health Internship Program – a seven-week, paid summer internship. The role required her, along with a community partner, to facilitate weekly discussions with a group of 17 students from eight different community sites. These regular meetings allowed students to share their experiences and reflect on the value of the program’s interdisciplinary focus while figuring out, together, how to handle the challenges faced at their community sites.
Join the Bridging the Gaps network on September 7 to hear guest speaker Sonja Sohn who is best known for her role as Detective Greggs on The Wire. As its CEO, Sohn will address ReWired for Change, a nonprofit organization created to empower at-risk youth and families. Save the date: September 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon at Rodeph Shalom, 615 N. Broad St.
“As a first-time group leader, my experience with Bridging the Gaps was unbelievably rewarding. The weekly group discussions about happenings at the community sites were lively and spanned the range of emotions from laughter to heartbreak,” McGinty said. “As the summer progressed, I watched as the students grew in confidence, in compassion, and in their understanding of the broader community while shedding some of their preconceptions about people and their circumstances.”
USciences occupational therapy students Daniel Fichter DrOT’15 and Palak Sutaria DrOT’15 were USciences’ student participants in the Community Health Internship Program with BTG. As interns, the students had an opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration through placement with one of approximately 100 nonprofit community partners. Palak and Daniel were partnered with medical students from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, USciences’ affiliate school, and placed on different student teams where they worked closely with community site personnel, community members, and faculty to design projects based upon their assigned communities’ needs in alignment with the students’ professional disciplines and interests.
Fichter, who worked with The Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center, cooperated on a project titled Homelessness Has a Face (Behind-the-Scenes Edition). From book clubs to nutrition groups they called “Fun Food Fridays,” Fichter engaged his adult clients in discussion groups, educational presentations, and leisure activities. The interns’ project aligned well with the center’s goal to aid less fortunate veterans in “finding their way back into the mainstream of society.”
“Working with my partner, staff, and clients has truly developed my outlook on client-centered processes and on how past experiences can shape a persons’ current attitude, demeanor and personality. Most importantly, I learned the power of acceptance and recognition. Say ‘hi’ and smile,” Fichter said.
Sutaria and her team lead a project titled Healthy Lifestyles: Bodies Under Construction, Minds on a Mission at John Bartram High School’s summer bridge program. Because the school’s neighborhood in Southwest Philadelphia provides little resources for healthy living, Sutaria enhanced the summer bridge program by initiating biweekly cooking classes, daily physical exercise, and supplemental lessons on improving social competency. The five-week program exposed the students to nutrition, food labels, maintaining healthy relationships, and as a class, a final cookbook called “Quick Recipes for a Healthier Lifestyle” was made.
“It was truly an eye opening experience that has taught me far more than any textbook or a classroom would have done. It has helped me broaden my horizon and has made me aware of certain realities of life,” Sutaria said.