From 2013 – 2014, I was fortunate enough to serve as a member of the Philadelphia Health Corps (PHC). PHC is an AmeriCorps funded program that recruits individuals who were interested in advocacy and healthcare. Together, we served as advocates for medically undeserved communities by volunteering at health centers scattered throughout the city. At our biweekly team meetings, we discussed the challenges we were facing, how we could improve our outreach, presented controversial topics, discussed how to work with various populations, practiced cultural competency, and actively worked to stay educated on the communities we worked with.
During one of our meetings, one of the members showed the following video that, to this day, blows my mind. I loved hearing about physicians who weren’t conforming to the U.S. medical system. These physicians didn’t write a prescription for a pill and send their patients home. Instead, I learned about a physician’s potential to serve as an advocate. I became motivated to go to medical school and made sure to remember the fundamental rules of healthcare: (1) we don’t need to solve everything with a pill, (2) healthy habits can greatly reduce disease prevalence, (3) healthcare is a universal right. Physicians have a moral obligation to use their knowledge to educate their patients on how to create and maintain good habits and ultimately work to prevent “Diseases of Lifestyle”.
Each member of PHC completed over 1800 hours of volunteering throughout one year. It was the most rewarding year of my life. Not only did the experience teach me about how medicine was the field I was destined to pursue, but it allowed me to gain a more personal perspective on how living in a poor communities affected the health of my patients. I saw patients who struggled to pay for their medications and sacrificed their health in order to provide for their families. There is a difference between volunteering at a soup kitchen for a day and immersing yourself into a volunteer experience for a year, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of a team that wants to help people in need.
Photo: Dad checking in on Mom’s recently experiment — growing broccoli in the backyard.