Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey Projects - 2019

 

Arc Best Buddies: Intergenerational Mentorship Program

Student Interns:
Jacob Beebe, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy
Ijeoma Unachukwu, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Academic Preceptors:
Betsy Mathew, MD, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Mary Wagner, PharmD, MS, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptor:
Karen Kowalski, MPH, OTR, The Arc of Somerset County

Community Site:
The Arc of Somerset County is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide quality services and advocacy to support development and achievement at every stage of life for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Disabilities Conditions; Educational and Community-Based Programs; Elder Health and Senior Quality of Life; Mental Health; Oral Health.

Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns developed the “Arc Best Buddies” program, an intergenerational mentorship program that matched older and younger consumers inside the different day program sites at the Arc. The buddy matches met once a week for an hour and participated in a set of activities that fostered communication and strengthened interpersonal relationships. The program included group activities, such as Taboo and Family Feud, and paired “buddy” activities, such as arts and crafts and puzzles. The program participants were a heterogeneous mix of young and older adults with various disabilities and varying levels of communication.

Intern Statements: 
Jacob Beebe: “My experience at Jill Court has been nothing short of expectations, as I have learned so many things about such unique people. Our project really brought out the best of the individuals and facilitated interpersonal communication that I think many of them were lacking. I do believe our short time here has made a positive impact on many of the individuals’ lives, as they certainly all left an impact on mine.”

Ijeoma Unachukwu: “Working for The Arc of Somerset allowed me to see a wide range of services related to disabilities. We were personally working at a day program, but Karen, our community preceptor, invited us to visit private organizations, day camps, and other programs for adults with disabilities. We spent our days doing activities with the consumers at the Jill Court day rehabilitation program, connecting, and bonding with them. One of the greatest lessons I learned this summer is the appreciation for different forms of communication. Each individual communicates differently, and each of their narratives are equally as important. People just want to feel valued and appreciated, and I was lucky enough witness that.”

 

Integrated Health Interventions for Patients With Mental Illness

Student Interns: 
Nicholas Lozano, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Astha Parikh, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptors: 
Shauna Downs, PhD, MS, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Megan Maroney, PharmD, BCPP, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptor:
Michael Swerdlow, PhD, FACHE, Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services

Community Site: 
Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services was established in 1970 with the goal of rehabilitating people with mental illness and paving a path for their recovery. It also aims to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Bridgeway helps people with mental illness to fully integrate back into society by assisting them in myriad ways, ranging from PACT (Program for Assertive Community Treatment) team home visits to a partial-care day facility. Its partial-care facility holds daily group sessions on topics such as healthy living and recovering from substance abuse. Bridgeway also focuses on social skills, job preparation and creative outlets for the people served. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Healthcare; Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Educational Advancement/Literacy; Health-Related Quality of Life and Well-Being; Mental Health; Oral Health.

Project: 
The Bridging the Gaps student interns’ project evaluated the successes and barriers of integrated care through the Bridge to Wellness program at Bridgeway. The interns developed a survey for the people served to assess their understanding of their primary care needs, their use of their primary care physician and their awareness of the Bridge to Wellness program offered at Bridgeway. The interview questions were mostly open-ended to foster further conversation, which allowed the student interns to understand some of the reasons why these people did not utilize the Bridge to Wellness program. Each interview lasted about 20 to 30 minutes and all responses were typed into a Word document. The main takeaways and common responses were presented on the poster.

Intern Statements: 
Nicholas Lozano: “Bridging the Gaps offered hands-on experience to utilize my public health education that I firmly believe that I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. Studying epidemiology, a lot of what we learn pertains to statistics, data analysis, and study methodology. It was rewarding to have these meaningful interactions with the persons served at Bridgeway, and I enjoyed educating them on relevant public health topics that I am most passionate about.”

Astha Parikh: “Bridging the Gaps has been an immersive experience that allowed me to understand communities like the one served at Bridgeway on a comprehensive and meaningful level. Engaging with persons with mental illness, a lot of whom also had co-occurring disorders and were impacted by other social determinants of health, brought to light the holistic nature of health. It was especially rewarding to be able to help overwhelmed patients approach their often complex medication therapy. Ultimately as a pharmacy student, the comforting impact my profession can have on persons served and the need for integrated healthcare that was highlighted in my time at Bridgeway are the two major lessons I will carry forward from this internship.”

New Brunswick's Invisible Community

Student Interns: 
Lisa Dawson-Annan, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Carlos Mendoza, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Academic Preceptors: 
Irina B. Grafova, PhD, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Michael A. Noll, MD, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Community Preceptor: 
Eileen O’Donnell, JD, MPP, MSW, Coming Home of Middlesex County

Community Site: 
Coming Home is a nonprofit corporation formed by Middlesex County and the United Way of Central Jersey to create a true system to end homelessness in the county. The organization builds coalitions and fosters collaborative strategies and public-private partnerships among local government, affordable housing developers, social service providers and others. Collectively, its mission is to rehouse individuals and families as quickly as possible and to provide connections to community resources to enable them to sustain their new homes. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Healthcare; Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status.

Project: 
The Bridging the Gaps student interns were given the opportunity to get to know the previously homeless individuals. The interns created projects to help these individuals lead healthier lives. Projects included creating a community garden and holding weekly health workshops guided by the tenants’ interests. The goal of the community garden was to bring members of the community together and establish a garden that will flourish into sustainable food that can be used by the tenants. With the tenants, the student interns planted tomatoes, basil and zucchini and provided instructions on how to maintain the plants. For the health workshops, the interns surveyed tenants and learned that they wanted workshops on nutrition and blood pressure. The student interns held a blood pressure clinic that included a presentation about what it means to have high blood pressure and how to read medications that the participants may be on. The student interns screened every individual who attended and provided worksheets to keep track of blood pressure on a regular basis. The nutrition workshop included a presentation illustrating easy-to-prepare, healthy, cost-effective meals and a shopping exercise using pictures of researched locally available and affordable foods.

Intern Statements: 
Lisa Dawson-Annan: “This whole internship experience opened my eyes to see what social workers really do. Social work and public health really do go hand in hand when it comes to meeting the needs of the community. I really enjoyed seeing that there are people out there who generally have a heart for assisting vulnerable populations like the homeless, and I felt so humbled to be working for an organization that desires to put an end to homelessness. Another thing I liked was how Coming Home highlighted the importance of addressing the social determinants of health by trying to make physical as well as social environments that encourage good health for the homeless. The social determinants of health are something we discuss a lot in public health, so seeing that it was brought up here as well really opened my eyes to how important it is and how it is most commonly associated with homelessness.”

Carlos Mendoza: “After my first year of medical school, I realized the diversity of positions that assist inpatient care from prevention to cure. I wanted to get experience doing something outside of the clinical world this summer and gain the perspective of other aspects of patient care that I would never be able to truly see in a hospital setting. During my time at Coming Home of Middlesex County, this is exactly what I was able to do. By being able to shadow their caseworkers on a regular basis, provide health workshops for a previously homeless community, and conduct research on employment status for clients, I was able to see what a social worker can do to improve the social determinants of health for any individual that is willing to engage with the worker. At Coming Home, I witnessed determination, ingenuity, and unbiased care for their clients. They showed determination in ending homelessness by creating benchmark goals of increasing the number of housed individuals collaboratively with other similar organizations. Ingenuity was shown with the constant barrier of a lack of resources and funding being continuously overcome to sustain and provide ongoing help to the large volume of clients that they receive. The most important trait of this organization that I witnessed was the unrelenting care that they give to their clients. Whether the client walked through the door, was in a shelter, or was bedridden in a hospital, a case worker would come and hopefully provide assistance, but always provide comfort. These qualities are those that I hope to carry as a physician moving forward.”

 

Diabetes Prevention and Management at a Local Community Soup Kitchen

Student Interns: 
Prem Patel, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Afra Trinidad, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptors: 
Teri Lassiter, PhD, MPH, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Caitlyn McCarthy, PharmD, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptors: 
Yvette Molina, Elijah’s Promise
Nimit Shah, MPH, Elijah’s Promise

Community Site: 
Elijah’s Promise began as a volunteer-run soup kitchen serving the hungry in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and has since expanded into a social enterprise, providing jobs and training opportunities for impoverished and underrepresented people. Elijah’s Promise prepares thousands of delicious, nutritious meals each year and provides the hungry with access to fresh, quality food, because all people should have access to good food. In addition to providing healthy food to the community, Elijah’s Promise connects low-income individuals and families with social and health services. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Educational Advancement/Literacy; Nutrition and Weight Status.

Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns developed and fielded a survey to 114 patrons at Elijah’s Promise Community Kitchen and created and conducted a diabetes prevention workshop based on participant responses. When asked about their health, approximately 20% of the respondents said that they had been diagnosed with diabetes and 9% reported that they had been prescribed insulin. The student interns analyzed the survey data and created a report that provided Elijah’s Promise preceptors with information about participant preferences for the workshop and suggestions about improving the organization. For one week, during the lunch service, the student interns handed out flyers and signed up potential attendees. Based on survey data, the student interns developed a workshop primarily focused on diabetes prevention through healthy and sustainable nutrition/diet practices and included information about managing diabetes.

Intern Statements:
Prem Patel: “This internship was able to show me career avenues I did not know existed, while also showing me the important role each career plays to improve the health of underserved populations. … I learned the importance of working in interdisciplinary teams and how much more can be accomplished when professionals from different fields work together.”

Afra Trinidad: “I am so grateful for the opportunity to take part in this program … . It really supplemented my pharmacy education and I feel like I can take a lot back with me to my school in regards to serving the underserved populations. I would also like to thank all the staff at Elijah’s Promise, including our site preceptors, for really helping us understand the mission and the workings of Elijah’s Promise. Most of all, I would like to thank the clients of EP because they have been so receptive to our presence and I have learned so much about their community. I can honestly say that this experience has been eye opening for me and that I have learned about New Brunswick in this past few weeks more than I have in the past four years of my schooling at Rutgers.”

 

Engaging the Community at Permanent Supportive Housing

Student Interns: 
Lisangi Fernandez, Rutgers University, School of Health Professions, Physician Assistant Program
Sara Hwang, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptors: 
Frank Giannelli, MS, PA-C, Rutgers University, School of Health Professions
Anita Siu, PharmD, BCPPS, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptor: 
Melissa Mascolo, MA, Making it Possible to End Homelessness (MIPH)

Community Site: 
Making It Possible to End Homelessness is partnering with Mission First Housing Group in its initiative to end homelessness in Central New Jersey. Amandla Crossing and Imani Park provide permanent supportive housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Middlesex County. Amandla and Imani have 46 units of safe, affordable, permanent housing combined with on-site support services where residents can access the resources they need to increase health, independence and housing stability. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Healthcare; Disabilities Conditions; Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Oral Health; Physical Activity and Fitness.

Project: 
At Amandla Crossing and Imani Park, the Bridging the Gaps interns’ project consisted of individual case management as well as group interventions with a theme of overall health and wellness. With individual cases, the Bridging the Gaps student interns learned how to navigate the healthcare system, transportation services, and numerous in-home services. Some of the individuals they worked with had physical disabilities; others had less visible disabilities such as hearing impairment. Based on a survey, the student interns arranged a series of workshops conforming with the interests of the residents. Topics included smart food shopping, healthy alternatives, stress management, beginner yoga exercises, oral hygiene and recreational activities for children. To promote continuity of services, the student interns established numerous relationships with local businesses such as the public library, Zufall Health Center, and Roots to Rise, a nonprofit yoga organization.

Intern Statements:
Lisangi Fernandez: “I am appreciative of the opportunity to be a Bridging the Gaps intern and working with the residents at Amandla Crossing and Imani Park. Between the two sites, I learned how to navigate the different communities and how to best serve the needs of each population. During my one-on-one interactions, I gained insight into the several barriers people face in our healthcare system, especially when dealing with a disability. This has been a humbling experience and has solidified the importance of compassion and understanding of others and the challenges they endure. As a future healthcare provider, I will consider social determinants of health in order to improve the overall well-being of my patients.”

Sara Hwang: “I am truly honored to have had the opportunity to work with the residents of Amandla Crossing and Imani Park. It was very important for me that the workshops would not only provide short-term solutions, but rather long-term effects that would continue to make a difference in the residents’ lives. Through this experience, I was able to better understand how social determinants of health affect the homeless population. In my one-on-one meetings, I learned to address specific barriers to healthcare and overall health these residents face on a daily basis. The lessons learned during this internship will help me as a healthcare provider to better understand the factors underlying the problems they have.”

 

Relationship Goals: Promoting Healthy Relationships in Irvington, NJ

Student Interns: 
Kiera Brennan, Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School 
Ranelle Tulloch, Rutgers University, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptors: 
Bianca Dube, MD, Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School 
Jesse Plascak, PhD, Rutgers University, School of Public Health

Community Preceptor: 
Ilise Zimmerman, MS, MPH, Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey

Community Site: 
The Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey is a nonprofit organization of healthcare professionals and consumers dedicated to providing education and increasing community awareness by facilitating collaboration among the private sector, the public sector, and maternal and child healthcare providers for the delivery of high-quality coordinated maternal and child healthcare. The organization’s Irvington office, known as the Irvington Family Development Center, is a family success center geared toward providing a variety of services for people of all ages and backgrounds within the community. These services include providing workshops, job readiness support, free pregnancy tests and after-school programs for children. View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Health Communication; Injury and Violence Prevention; Maternal, Infant and Child Health; Mental Health; Responsible Sexual Behavior.

Project: 
The Bridging the Gaps student interns’ project focused on creating a three-part pilot series of culturally competent workshops addressing healthy relationships inspired by the Couple LINKS curriculum. Couple LINKS is a marriage-based curriculum that needed to be modified and adapted to suit the community needs of Irvington, New Jersey. The student interns developed a captivating promotional flyer and designed a PowerPoint presentation for the weekly workshops, which included videos and interactive activities to engage participants. The topics included healthy communication, conflict resolution, and romance and intimacy. Workshop participants were women from the Stepping Stones Program, a program under The Bridge that teaches women healthy lifestyle components. The student interns collaborated with The Bridge to ensure that the curriculum was relevant to the population’s unique needs.

Intern Statements:
Kiera Brennan: “My experience with the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey was eye-opening. It was so rewarding to get to know the members of the community in which I receive a medical education, and their unique needs and stories. Discussing topics like conflict resolution, intimacy, and interpersonal violence was not always easy, but the conversations that arose were always insightful. I feel better prepared to work with vulnerable populations as a future physician and better prepared to talk about difficult topics that contribute to overall health.”

Ranelle Tulloch: “Working at the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey this summer was very rewarding. As a public health student, I’m interested in alleviating health disparities, and this program opened my eyes even further to the unique needs of the Irvington community. I also became more aware of the multifaceted role a nonprofit organization has within an underserved area. As a result, I feel more immersed within the community and hope to use the knowledge I have gained to make more of a difference in Essex County, NJ. I also understand the importance of working in an interdisciplinary team and truly enjoyed working with my partner every week on our project.”

 

Culturally Sensitive Diabetes Education

Student Interns: 
Alexandria Kulik, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Daniel Mesa, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptors: 
Bernadette Hohl, PhD, MPH, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Mary Bridgeman, PharmD, BCPS, CGP, FASCP, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptors: 
Douglas Bishop, MD, Zufall Health Center

Community Site: 
Zufall Health Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center with eight locations across six New Jersey counties. The center primarily serves uninsured and underinsured patients as well as a large Hispanic/Latinx population. Zufall’s mission is “to provide access to quality, affordable and culturally competent healthcare to people and communities who experience barriers to care.” View Community Partner Web Site

BTG Focus Areas (adapted from Healthy People 2010 and 2020):
Access to Healthcare; Chronic Disease (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Respiratory Diseases, etc.); Mental Health; Nutrition and Weight Status; Physical Activity and Fitness.

Project: 
Zufall Community Health Center has many patients with diabetes, the majority of whom are Spanish-speaking. The Bridging the Gaps student interns facilitated diabetes education group sessions in English and Spanish for Zufall’s patients. The topics covered in the workshop included nutrition, exercise, mental health, medication adherence and the complications of diabetes. The student interns put special emphasis on nutrition, with the goal of providing patients with culturally relevant information. The interns provided patients with various handouts to take home that had additional information on the topics covered, such as healthier ways to prepare traditional Latin American foods. The Zufall Community Health Center was provided with these supplemental materials, so that healthcare practitioners can offer patients information on a variety of topics related to diabetes.

Intern Statements:
Alexandria Kulik: “The Bridging the Gaps summer internship program provided me with a wealth of knowledge and experiences that I would not have received elsewhere. The interdisciplinary nature of the program, along with the site I was paired with, gave me insight on Federally Qualified Health Centers and diabetes management that encouraged me to work at an FQHC upon graduation. Prior to this internship, I had an interest in working with healthcare laws and legislation, particularly those concerning Medicare and Medicaid. I have done previous work at the local Board of Social Services that showed me firsthand the effects that healthcare legislation can have on people and their health. After working at Zufall, I am only further encouraged to work with policy that specifically affects the uninsured and underinsured.”

Daniel Mesa: “Bridging the Gaps taught me more about public health, social justice and the importance of interprofessional collaboration than I could have hoped for going in. Being at Zufall, and working with a predominantly Spanish-speaking immigrant population, reaffirmed to me the importance of being able to properly communicate with our patients as healthcare providers and motivated me to continue to improve my communication skills in order to focus my future career on similar populations. The Wednesday sessions with presenters from various backgrounds taught me so much about all the different factors in a person’s environment that can impact their health and the importance of taking those factors into account when interacting with and treating a patient. These experiences at Bridging the Gaps were ones that I know I will not learn enough about in the classroom, and so I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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