Empowered to Serve

My experiences from the last six months as a Global Health Corps fellow and working at the Children’s Health Fund has been both empowering and inspiring.

I moved to the United States to pursue a career in public health after practicing medicine for four years in Nigeria. I felt discontent about the declining access to health care services, as well as the maternal and infant mortality rates which continued to increase. I was convinced that these issues were beyond the daily doctor-patient encounters, that there are more systems-based and efficient ways to improve access, and outcomes need to be sought.

Working at the Children’s Health Fund, an organization that provides comprehensive health care through an enhanced medical home model to medically underserved children on mobile medical units, has exposed me to efficient ways to ensure that  health systems work. This organization, though not comparable to a nation, operates a health system that encourages collaboration of vital players. I have been opportune to work with the policy and advocacy, development, IT, communications, and medical affairs teams on different aspects of health service provision to underserved children and populations.

At the Children’s Health Fund, I am presently working on the Referral Management Initiative, a program that assists underserved children to navigate the health system  through provision of preventive and clinical services, whether or not they have health insurance. Care coordinators ensure that obstacles to ‘closing the loop’ of care are overcome through provision of transportation options, identifying  and linking children with providers and government services where required. I also assist in evaluating these programs in order to ensure that programs are run as designed and that they provide value to the population served.

Participating in the immediate and continued post Sandy relief efforts added another twist to my experience at Children’s Health Fund. I was a part of the immediate assessment and relief response to Hurricane Sandy around the New Jersey and New York areas. A disaster management team from my organization met with County Health Department heads, rescue officials/volunteers, and victims to assess the extent of damage and understand their needs and challenges, in order to respond appropriately without duplicating resources.  During these assessments, I was able to fully comprehend the diverse effects of a disaster, particularly its direct impacts on  individuals and the community. Homes were lost, hospitals were flooded, clinics and pharmacies were also closed. Individuals with chronic health conditions could not renew their drug prescriptions, and those who could have gotten their medications from temporary shelters did not  have their prescriptions with them, which made replenishing the medications a difficult issue. As a result of waste due to loss of power and inability to maintain appropriate food safety levels, food supply was erratic and if not for efforts to assess food donated, there may have been an outbreak of food poisoning at one of the sites we visited.

The Global Health Corps fellowship connected me with the Children’s Health Fund, where service is rendered strategically and consistently to underserved and hard-to-reach populations.  I believe many more opportunities to learn and serve are in store for anyone who becomes a part of this movement.