A little over halfway at GVAHEC and LOVING it!

I have been at my internship with the Greater Valley Area Health Education Center (GVAHEC) for just over a month, and it is incredibly gratifying to reflect on how much I have already accomplished.  I have taught four weeks of classes at the Maricopa Integrated Health Systems’ (MIHS) Family Learning Centers, helped implement a new program at GVAHEC that provides children with free meals, and also conducted data extraction and analysis for all individuals that came to GVAHEC within the last couple months.

The classes I have taught at MIHS clinics covered a range of public health and safety topics including Fire Safety, Firework Safety, Germs & Handwashing, and Bike Safety.  Next week I will be teaching a class on Sun Safety.  In addition to expanding my range of topics, I was given the responsibility to develop the curriculum and lesson plans for this next class on my own, from the ground up.  I am excited to see my hard work in action!  Most days, we have about 10 kids at each class, but every location is different, with different demographics and children of different ages.  Developing a curriculum for children aged 0-14 is difficult because of the large age range, but it has already been extremely rewarding.

On the campus of GVAHEC, we have begun working with Kids Cafe, a national movement to help give anyone under 18 free, healthy meals.  You can learn more about Kids Cafe here.  GVAHEC runs Kids Cafe on Tuesday and Thursday from 12:00-12:45, and on Wednesday nights from 5:30-6:15.  It is an amazing feeling to be able to hand a child a Kids Cafe package and to know that I am helping to feed a child that would otherwise go without a meal.  My fellow interns and I are leading this program.  In just a few weeks we have fed hundreds of children. Nothing has felt better than knowing I am improving the health of these kids.

A typical Kids Cafe meal. Last Wednesday, we gave out 75 meals in one night!
A typical Kids Cafe meal. Last Wednesday, we gave out 75 meals in one night!

My boss was out of town last week, so my fellow interns and I buckled down and did some intense paper work. When an individual comes into the center, they fill out a face sheet with demographic information and the resources they need.  We extracted this data into excel documents and analyzed the results.  This was a truly eye-opening experience.  For example, we discovered that in May 2014 only 3% of people that came through the center were ineligible for the Working Poor Tax Credit.  In other words, 97% of the people we help are living in poverty.  Crunching numbers and assessing data is vital to our work.  I personally learned about the full range of work and services we provide, and by assessing our efforts we yielded results that can now be used to receive more grant funding and to validate how much GVAHEC is doing.

I cannot choose just one thing I am proud of this summer.  Everything I am doing helped me confirm how much I truly want a future in Public Health, as well as how badly systemic changes are needed to improve the health of the individuals and communities we serve.  It is truly a great feeling to finally be comfortable in my work and to work alongside people who share my passion for service and change (and even to pig out sometimes with my fellow interns).  I also have the opportunity to meet regularly with my supervisor to discuss my work and expectations for the week ahead.  It is a little sad knowing I will be leaving GVAHEC in a few short weeks, but I am thrilled that I still have a lot to do before then!

One of my fellow interns, my supervisor and I collaborating (with snacks!)
One of my fellow interns, my supervisor and I collaborating (with snacks!)



GV A HEC? We do! My start at GVAHEC

Last week, I started my internship at the Greater Valley Area Health Education Center (GVAHEC) and am already learning and doing more than I expected. The center is located on the same campus as LifeBridge Resource Center and LIBRES (Legal Immigration-Based Resources and Education Services). The partnerships between LifeBridge, GVAHEC, and LIBRES are clear. For example, if an individual comes in needing food/clothing, help with housing, and legal help with their citizenship status, they would first come through the LifeBridge resource center. There they would have access to clothing and a food box. They would then come to GVAHEC, where I work, for a transitional housing application and sit with a resource counselor to learn about their options. After that appointment, they would next meet with someone from LIBRES, and learn about their options related to their citizenship.


Although I am only in my first week, I am already working on four different types of projects and taught a week of classes at Family Health Centers on Fire Safety across Phoenix! Coming in to this internship, I thought my role would be based mostly on clinical interventions since I am an EMT and like helping in a hands-on manner.  I am learning through this internship that there are other ways to make a difference.  For example, in my epidemiology course, we learned about primary, secondary, and tertiary preventions, and through this public health internship I will actually be doing all three.  On the primary intervention level, I am teaching classes to kids about various health risks like Firework Safety and Bike Safety as well as developing my own curriculum on Staying Safe in the Sun. In the realm of secondary intervention, we help people who are struggling with their bills by helping to pay for their utilities and prescription co-pays in the hopes that assistance will help them stabilize their finances. In this role, I sit with members to learn how they are struggling and help offer our resources. On the tertiary level, when individuals are facing eviction, we help connect them with shelters and transitional housing programs.

Teaching our first Fire Safety class
Teaching our first Fire Safety class

Public health is not only about taking vitals and using stethoscopes. All of these roles that I am playing help our community.  On my first day, a woman came in who was living out of her car with her two boys.  Because of this, one of the boys had a heat stroke from being out in the Arizona sun all day and had to go to the emergency room.  We helped the mother complete an application for transitional housing, and she is staying at a hotel until she is accepted. Housing, utilities, prescriptions, and insurance are all related to having a healthy lifestyle, and at GVAHEC, we are giving people and families in our community support to an array of interconnected factors that are important to having a healthy and stable life.


To learn more about my internships, follow these links: