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Hello everyone! My name is Maya London and I’m a rising senior studying HSSP and Biology with interests in public health, healthcare access in vulnerable populations, shared family health behaviors, and the patient-provider relationship. To learn more about the needs of medically complex and vulnerable populations, I chose to intern with IRC Sacramento in the Intensive Case Management program.
IRC is an international humanitarian organization that responds to humanitarian crises worldwide and serves as a refugee resettlement organization within the United States. Their motto is “From harm to home.” The domestic branch provides holistic resettlement services to assist refugees in their transition to American life by picking them up from the airport and then helping them register for healthcare and English language classes, find a home and become oriented to American culture.
While the initial resettlement period required by the government is only 90 days, IRC has recognized that there are some clients with disabilities, complex medical issues, or other vulnerabilities who need more assistance navigating social systems to become self-sufficient. My program in the Sacramento office exists in addition to the initial resettlement program and enrolls clients for up to 12 additional months. Our services include coordinating medical and mental health appointments and social services, accompanying clients to appointments and, most importantly, assisting our clients in achieving their goals and becoming self-sufficient.
So far, I have learned to schedule client’s medical appointments, interpreters, and transportation services, as well as advocate for clients during medical encounters. Additionally, I have helped clients read through social services paperwork, as well as coaching them in their communications with doctors and other medical staff.
Some takeaways from my first few weeks have been the need for change in U.S. medical, insurance, and social services systems to make them more accessible for non-English speaking clients. Most of the refugees in Sacramento are SIV (Special Immigration Visa) holders from Afghanistan and speak limited if any English, in addition to some combination of Dari (the language in this blog post’s title), Pashto, Farsi or Urdu, so navigating mechanized phone menus with the only additional language option being Spanish is next to impossible. Yesterday, it took me three tries to get through to an operator using the automated menu, and when I told them my client was non-English speaking and that going through the menu system would be difficult for them, they told me to simply write down the series of numbers the client would need to click to enter into the system.
My clients are also clients of socials services, insurance companies, and schools in this area and their needs must be met in the same way as any other client. This summer, I am excited to learn more about the barriers faced by my clients and advocate for change in these systems. I hope to be able to bring the experiences and knowledge from the “patient” side to my career as a family physician and have a better understanding of the barriers faced by my patients, and how I can best support them in their health journey.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are my personal views and not those of IRC or the Sacramento office.