GlobeMed: Partners for Positive Change

By Rei Ramos ‘15
University Communications

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. Rhett Partida ’15 believes that these words of wisdom work well to encapsulate GlobeMed’s intentions and goals of inspiring sustainable positive change for the residents of Iquitos, Peru.

Earlier this summer, Partida, along with a team of five other students, traveled to the Peruvian rainforest as part of GROW, an internship opportunity that focuses on involvement in Grassroots On-Site Work.  Through GROW, the university’s GlobeMed chapter is given the opportunity to create a relationship between a student team and a grassroots health partner.  The UR chapter works closely with Kallpa, a youth development organization that hopes to educate, engage, and empower youth in the urban community of Pampachica in Iquitos.  Together, they create goals to provide better health opportunities and foster long term sustainable solutions for underprivileged youth.

“The idea of partnership is rooted in our mission,” said Humma Sheikh ’15.  The rising senior, a neuroscience major, stressed the importance of GlobeMed’s interactive approach to creating better opportunities not only for but with Iquitos.  Through the GROW internship, students were able to travel to Iquitos to work collaboratively with Kallpa and local community members to instill positive change through education, research, and programming.

Over the academic year, GlobeMed stages fundraising events to procure monetary support for their partner organization.  Working under a Partnership Action Framework, the Rochester chapter teams with Kallpa in order to evaluate programs in place in the community, assess the potential for change, and set goals in accordance with their budgetary possibilities.  This year, the group was able to raise more than $11,000 to go towards a solutions budget.  From there, they have created initiatives with community leaders, integrating the community’s voice to serve local needs.

Partida, this year’s GROW coordinator, believes that listening is a key step in working towards finding routes towards change.  “GROW is about creating sustainable solutions. What we were there to do, first and foremost, was to listen and understand,” he said.  This communicative emphasis helped the chapter to identify some of the community’s greatest issues, including but not limited to education, sanitation, and a lack of accessible health care.

In line with the mission of Kallpa, the GROW team focused on creating better opportunities for local youth; this led to a strong emphasis on assessing the state of the education system.  This summer, the team was able to provide after school programs at an elementary school in the community of Pampachica.  For Partida, offering educational opportunities for youth is integral for instilling positive change and providing the tools for success.  “I grew up with the concept that the greatest gift you can give to someone is education. Knowledge is one thing that no one can take away from you,” explained Partida.  Kallpa and GlobeMed hope that these programs will curb delinquency and promote the pursuit of higher education among local youth.

Even with these new opportunities in place, education in Iquitos remains a messy picture.  Many factors deter youth from being able to pursue higher education.  Kallpa has tried to create preparatory programs for mentorship and tutoring but has seen them fail due to budgetary shortcomings.  Because of these difficulties, GROW has been conducting research to study the factors behind these barriers to education.  This has included diagnostic interviews of students and observation of classes and lesson plans.  They found that difficulties in travel, commitments to jobs and family, and a general lack of access to educational and monetary resources leave many Peruvian students bereft of the opportunity to pursue collegiate education.  Even with scholarship opportunities provided by the Peruvian government, such as Beca-18, many community youth had to turn down grants and preparatory programs in order to focus on supporting their families.

“These kids want to do more; they have dreams. They just don’t have the means,” admitted Partida, woefully.  With over half of the community’s adolescents unable to complete secondary education, GlobeMed hopes to use findings of their research to create more fruitful programs and solutions.

In order to foster and mobilize efforts for self-sustaining local action, GROW also held leadership training workshops and community events.  These workshops, focused on creating effective local leaders, were aimed at providing youth with the skills to manage neighborhoods, lead communities, and facilitate lasting change.  These workshops, provided in nine different neighborhoods, are geared towards embedding local leaders who can cater to the individualized needs of their communities.  With this, the workshops help to provide a lasting difference, equipping the community with agents of change even after the GROW team has left.

With GlobeMed’s large focus on the promotion and provision of global health, GROW also observed the community’s health issues.  Situated on the Rio Nanay, a tributary of the Amazon, much of Pampachica is prone to flooding, especially in the summer season, which brings pollution and trash into the streets.  This leaves the community with a very serious trash problem that threatens the health of its inhabitants.  Cleanup programs and efforts to raise awareness of the issue have since been implemented. The GROW team also found a lack of access to proper health care within the community.  In hopes of changing that, they helped to install a clinic that allowed a reproductive health specialist to meet with local youth in order to provide education and fulfill basic health care needs.

“This internship has been the most enriching, most difficult, most thought provoking, and heartbreaking experience,” said Sheikh.  “It’s crazy how much these kids can inspire you with their ability to keep hope and find solutions for themselves.”

Seeing that the community has increasingly become more comfortable looking to GlobeMed for support, she believes that genuine connection is what differentiates their efforts from the low-skill labor of other “voluntourism” efforts.  “Looking for solutions should be an interactive process. We operate completely and entirely on the strength of our partnership,” she said.

In his three years of experience with GlobeMed and GROW, Partida has seen the tangible differences that his efforts have made in Iquitos and admits that the experience, in turn, has changed him as well.  “Part of the GlobeMed model is to create this greater sense of consciousness. It makes you aware of things outside your university, community, and personal bubble.”

Hoping to one day enter the medical field, he believes that these experiences have equipped him with expanded perspective and greater empathy.  He strongly believes that GlobeMed’s emphasis on interactive partnership with Kallpa in Iquitos, as well as with the community of Pampachica, fosters true connection that can lead to lasting change. “They can call me a family member and a friend.”

Rochester Alum Builds Youth Engagement at Community Health Center

By Caitlin Mack ’12(T5)
Univ. Communications

Last August, Alykhan Alani ’12 (T5) joined the newly-established adolescent health care team at Anthony Jordan’s Woodward Health Center to address the increasing need for care among youth ages 10 to 19 in Rochester’s Southwest quadrant—an initiative that Alani is helping to spearhead through research and outreach efforts.

“We’re looking to the existing literature and conducting our own research to determine the specific health care needs and barriers to care for youth who live or attend school in the Southwest quadrant,” says Alani. “The goal is to better implement and market services we already offer, and expand our efforts where the need in the community is currently unmet.”

According to a 2011 youth risk behavior survey commissioned by the Rochester City School District, the number of students who regularly saw a primary care provider was around 69 percent. “The importance of preventative primary care for adolescents and their families cannot be overstated,” Alani explains. “What makes Woodward an integral and unique member of this community is that we are committed to meeting our patients’ needs regardless of their ability to pay.”

Alani is one of six fellows currently participating in Rochester Youth Year (RYY), an AmeriCorps VISTA-sponsored program that places recent graduates in community-based organizations for one year to create or expand initiatives addressing various challenges facing youth and families in Rochester. Graduates of Rochester Regional Network colleges, a consortium of seven institutions of higher education in the Rochester-area, are invited to apply to the program, which is based at the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL) at the University of Rochester.

Through the RYY program, Alani works alongside primary care providers at Woodward to analyze the health needs of youth residing in the 19th Ward and Plymouth-Exchange neighborhoods and build capacity for the implementation of youth programs and services there. Beyond meeting patients’ needs in a clinical setting, Alani also helps link youth to a variety of services, including HSE (high school equivalency) prep, tutoring and afterschool programs, access to food pantries, temporary housing, and conflict resolution workshops.

“Affordable, quality health care is a real need just about everywhere, but especially in this community,” says Alani. “Socio-economic status has profound implications for health and longevity. While we work in a dynamic and vibrant community, we must remain cognizant of the economic marginalization this community has, and continues to endure.”

DSC_0469Alani also conducts ethnographic research that seeks to understand and address non-biological determinants of health. “While we need to meet the immediate need for healthcare in our community, this effort cannot be divorced from the on-going struggle for economic, social, and environmental justice,” he explains. “When we begin to conceptualize interpersonal violence, addiction, housing and food insecurity, interpersonal and institutional racism, and even residential and business zoning as public health issues that affect our collective welfare, we’re confronted with an opportunity to address these challenges in unique and meaningful ways. Social determinants of health are often circumstantially or environmentally imposed on people–mitigating them requires us to continually chip-away at structural inequalities by not only interrogating the ways power and privilege operate in our own lives but also seeking to engage these structures at the institutional and policy-making levels.”

Alani also was brought on to strengthen the health center’s relationship with various youth-oriented community organizations operating in the Southwest quadrant, such as the M.K Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, Teen Empowerment, Rochester Youth Outreach, the Boys and Girls club, schools such as Wilson Commencement Academy and School 29, recreation centers, and faith-based institutions. He conducts focus groups with staff, volunteers, and youth from these partner organizations to ascertain their perspective on healthcare and facilitates the establishment of referral and enrollment networks.

Alani’s passion for community health and desire to live and work in Rochester after graduation was sparked the summer after his sophomore year while working at Anthony Jordan Health Center on Hudson Avenue as part of Rochester’s Urban Fellows Program. “That was my first experience with on-the-ground community health work, which fueled my desire to explore career opportunities within Rochester’s nonprofit sector,” he says.
Alani has maintained ties to Rochester’s public health program through his efforts at Woodward, hosting undergraduate research interns Alyssa Teck ’15 in the fall and Jenna Kole ’14 in the spring. Both were enrolled in Dr. Nancy Chin’s community engagement class.

“I firmly believe that service-learning initiatives allow students to have an engaging and meaningful experience with the Rochester community beyond shopping and nightlife. It can really change one’s perspective on this city,” he says. “Investing institutional resources into service learning programs and expanding the role of campus institutions like the Rochester Center for Community Leadership and University-affiliated partners like the Gandhi Institute is vital to fully realizing not only our commitment to Rochester, but our cherished and sanguine motto, Meliora.”

Last year, Alani completed a Take 5 project studying social capital and community development, which solidified his interests in grassroots and community organizing and non-profit work. He graduated last May with a bachelor’s in international health and society and minors in gender and women’s studies and religion. As an undergraduate, Alani was involved with RCCL, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), MetroJustice, and the Gandhi Institute (where he currently serves as a board member). After he completes his Rochester Youth Year fellowship in August, he plans on continuing to pursue a career in community health work and activism.

Those interested in applying to the 2014-15 Rochester Youth Year Program can apply here. The application deadline is Friday, March 7.

In the Photo: Attendees and speakers at a recent Woodward youth night.

Meliora Leader Tackles Smoking Cessation

By Caitlin Mack ’12 (T5)
Univ. Communications

Sanah Ali ’13 is part of an initiative to tackle smoking, one of America’s most controversial, decades-long health issues, as part of the Meliora Leaders Program at the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL).  Ali is working with the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Healthy Living Center (HLC) to help conduct a five year follow-up study to the Smoker’s Health Project, which includes advising patients interested in quitting smoking and recruiting those interested in services at the clinic.

The tobacco program offered by the HLC is free for U of R employees and allows smokers to meet with a doctor or a psychologist.  Program participants undergo a health evaluation and are given a doctor-prescribed “quit plan” of personalized and some not-so-obvious methods to quit smoking, in addition to medications that aid withdrawal symptoms if necessary.

“We find out about U of R employees who smoke via a voluntary personal health assessment.” says Ali.  “Helping them come in is the first hurdle. Often people wait for indications of decimating health before seeking help.”

For Ali, one of the hardest parts of her work has been broaching the subject of smoking with potential program participants. “It’s not like you can go up to someone and ask if they want to quit smoking,” says Ali. “Some people find it rude or may not want to be identified as smokers. Helping people in a polite and effective way is what I’m aiming for.”

On the other hand, Ali’s favorite part of the experience has been hearing the life stories and unique experiences (struggles and successes) with tobacco of the patients she works with.

One thing that surprised Ali was the strong stigma against medications recommended to help people quit.  As a result, she hopes to “increase awareness that although meds may have side effects or may add to concerns about dependence, these meds are not addictive and are for temporary use. The adverse effects of continuing to smoke overshadow any side effects of meds.”

Ali is intrigued by the biopsychosocial model of medicine developed at Rochester decades ago by Drs. George Engel and John Romano and hopes to incorporate aspects of it in the future as a practicing physician.

“The biopsychosocial model exemplifies the concept of holistic patient care, and points out that intrinsic motivation, living situation, lifestyle, support from family or friends, and mental health affect the likelihood of a long-lasting quit,” says Ali. “There’s only so much that a health care practitioner can do.”  In addition, Ali explains, “If someone smokes and everyone else in the environment does too, it’s going to be a lot tougher for them to quit because of the constant reminder.”

Ali also explains that there is increasing evidence for interplay between factors affecting smoking habits. For example, we know that caffeine stays in your system 40 percent longer when you’re not smoking and can increase anxiety and nicotine cravings; as a result, patients are advised to reduce their caffeine intake when they are trying to quit smoking.  Other unpopular side effects of smoking cessation include experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms or weight gain due to changes in metabolism.

Ali, a Pittsford, N.Y. native and a cell and developmental biology major, hopes to pursue a career in healthcare and continue her involvement with smoking cessation. She intends to expand her work to free clinics, including “UR Well,” a clinic for uninsured patients and “UR Street Medicine” for the homeless population. She also is interested in promoting tobacco awareness at primary schools. In addition to her efforts in Rochester, Ali has travelled to Islamabad, Pakistan to study the smoking habits of high school students there.

Ali is one of five students accepted to the Meliora Leaders Program for the 2012-2013 academic year. The program, offered through the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL), gives undergraduates the chance to create individualized service projects, allowing them to exercise intensive leadership in the Rochester community for an extended period of time. The program benefits organizations and individuals in need while providing a substantial learning experience for the students involved.

This article is part three of a series that features the Meliora Leaders of 2012-2013. Undergraduates interested in participating in the program should look for information on the RCCL page in the coming months. Information about the program can be found on the RCCL page at http://rochester.edu/college/rccl/meliora.html.

Meet Samantha Whalen: Meliora Leader

By Caitlin Mack ’12 (T5)
Univ. Communications

Though only a sophomore, Samantha Whalen ’15 has managed to effectively find a  real-world application for her majors in anthropology and health, behavior & society and complement her interests in peer health advocacy and community outreach. As a participant in the Meliora Leaders Program, Whalen was given the opportunity to volunteer at the Sojourner House, a transitional housing program for homeless women and children located in the 19th ward community. There, she helps residents plan and cook healthy, nutritious meals.

For the 2012-2013 academic year, five Rochester students, including Whalen, were selected as inaugural participants in the Meliora Leaders program. Designed to support and incentivize community-based leadership among Rochester students, the new initiative is a part of the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL).

In addition to serving as publicity chair of the Refugee Student Alliance on campus and volunteering as a part of community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, Whalen will spend the year running a local community service project, embodying the University motto by “seeking to ameliorate the Rochester community.”

In exchange for 300 hours of service throughout the academic year, leaders receive supplemental funding through AmeriCorps, which is matched by the University of Rochester. Participants undergo leadership training, keep in contact with a member of the host organization where the service is performed, and receive regular advisement by faculty or staff at the College.

“The program benefits organizations and individuals in need in Rochester, but also provides a substantive learning experience for our students,” says Glenn Cerosaletti, director of Rochester Center for Community Leadership. “Students stand to gain a keener understanding of the Rochester community—both its needs and assets—and make lasting connections with particular individuals in the community. At the same time, I hope they will gain an understanding of project management and how to enact social change.”

Whalen’s host organization, the Sojourner House, provides shelter for roughly 16 women at a time and any children they may have. The women living in the house must complete assigned chores, attend life skills programs that help them find jobs, and sometimes undergo counseling and therapy for issues like drug and alcohol addiction. Women and their families usually stay around six months, which is preferred to secure living arrangements, although stays vary from one month to more than a year.

At the house, Whalen noticed that women usually pooled their food stamps and resources to prepare ‘comfort’ foods, which were often unhealthy. She has been working with the life skills coordinator at the house to plan healthy meals, make shopping lists, organize the kitchen so the women have better access to adequate cooking supplies, and provide advice on healthy portion sizes. She also suggests simple recipes with varied and interesting ingredients and tries to make them as healthy and nutritious as possible while staying within budget.

“The women go back to the same things that they grew up making, which is fine every once in awhile, but it’s about teaching them and their children how to live a healthier lifestyle,” Whalen explains.

Examples of healthy meals that Whalen helped plan include chicken pasta primavera, chicken stir fry, smoked pork chops with corn and okra, chicken asparagus crepes, turkey meatloaf, and chicken quesadillas.

Whalen especially appreciates her interactions with the children who live in the Sojourner House. In addition to biweekly visits to the house to help plan meals and improve overall nutrition, Whalen hosts a “study buddy” program on Tuesday nights, where she provides homework help to the kids who live there. The kids also participate in “Dream Seeds,” an arts enrichment program that has activities, including drumming and tap dancing. She says that talking and interacting with the children has given her a new perspective on Rochester outside of the microcosm of the River Campus.

“It’s eye-opening to interact with a different socioeconomic group. It helps me to understand Rochester more as a community,” Whalen explains. “There are two little girls that told me they aren’t allowed to play outside because there’s a criminal who lives on their street. Sojourner House is a place to go to feel safe and to do fun activities.”

A native of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Whalen pursued this opportunity after hearing about it through Alpha Phi Omega and was in charge of finding her own project and contacts. Whalen posts monthly reflections on Blackboard so that RCCL staff can monitor her progress and make sure she stays on track.  She remains focused on maintaining a nutrition program and committed to helping the residents of the Sojourner House in any way that she can.

This article is part one of a series that will feature the Meliora Leaders of 2012-2013. Undergraduates interested in participating in the program should look for information on the RCCL page in Spring 2013. Information about the program can be found on the RCCL page at http://rochester.edu/college/rccl/meliora.html.