Category Archives: Davidson Impact Fellows 2018-19

To be a Part of Social Change and Involvement in the Community

This blog was written by Evelyn Morris ’18, 2018-2019 Davidson Impact Fellow for the Matthews Free Medical Clinic.

Less than three months ago I was walking across the graduation stage; fast forward a matter of weeks and here I am standing in a conference room at the head of long table surrounded by an educated and powerful group of people giving a presentation on statistics that I had researched and compiled. Halfway through my fourth week at the Matthews Free Medical Clinic I presented a mid-year report on key clinic statistics to the board of directors at their annual planning meeting.

Leading up to the presentation I was grappling with a mixture of emotions: excited for this incredible opportunity, nervous about whether or not I belonged in a space like this after just graduating, and confident since I had spent weeks researching and preparing materials. In retrospect, I had no reason to feel intimidated by the opportunity presented to me, and in fact, my newness might have even been a strength because it gave me a new perspective to draw upon during my presentation. I drew many lessons from this experience but one I want to share with you all is that any student coming out of Davidson does in fact belong in these spaces more typically reserved for more experienced, higher educated persons and we are more prepared than we know.

As evidenced by the fact that I presented to the board during my fourth week of work, this job has already given me incredible autonomy and responsibility. I am currently writing a grant application for the clinic to secure continuous glucose monitors for our diabetic patients to wear. These devices take blood glucose readings every 15 minutes and store the data until their next provider appointment. Data from the monitors are then used to make more personalized treatment recommendations, ultimately increasing patient quality of life. I have been in charge of drafting the grant after initial collaboration meetings with our pharmacist who I will be working with to implement the program if the funds are secured. Being continuously given important projects that require me to learn new skills has really reinforced the fact that we as Davidson graduates are capable and able to tackle most any project to come our way.

Learning in the Postgraduate Setting

This blog was written by Claire Kane ’18, 2018-2019 Davidson Impact Fellow for the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC).

Twice a year, physicians at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) lead medical brigades to a mountainous region of Honduras, near the town of Camasca, where they provide medical care for families living in rural villages. For the past several years, MAHEC’s Davidson Impact Fellow has been given the opportunity to attend the trip and work alongside physicians, medical students, pharmacists, nurses, and other learners to provide care to this historically underserved population. Excited by the prospect, I quickly agreed to join this year’s August brigade without thinking through what exactly my role on the trip would entail. After the first day of clinic, I realized that because I am not qualified to provide medical care and my Spanish is conversational at best, my responsibilities were limited. Initially I felt both embarrassed and disappointed that I could not contribute more to the clinics’ operations, especially given the high volume of patients that came in to receive care. However, within days, several of the medical students attending the trip encouraged me to utilize the daily clinics as learning opportunities by shadowing them, posing questions, and speaking Spanish with patients. Thanks to those students, by the time the trip was over, I had learned how to use an otoscope, how to perform joint injections for knee osteoarthritis, how to identify the physical manifestations of a parasite infection, and much more. Yet, when I reflect back on the trip, the technical skills or medical terminology that I learned are not what stands out. Instead, I remember the ways in which the medical students taught me to embrace learning in the postgraduate “professional” world.

Like many young adults entering into postgraduate life, when I began my first professional work experience as an Impact Fellow at MAHEC, I felt a sense of pressure to perform and impress my coworkers and supervisors. This pressure translated into my hesitancy to ask questions, to be vulnerable, and to ask for help. I didn’t want to burden the providers that I worked with, who simultaneously juggle their clinical practice alongside community engagement and education initiatives. Ironically, it took me traveling all the way to Honduras to understand that everyone at the Mountain Area Health Education Center, medical students and administrators alike, truly embodies and embraces the organizational mission to cultivate learning. At MAHEC, we are often dealing with complex issues including the treatment of substance use disorder and the ever-changing status of our healthcare system and I have realized that I can only do my job well insofar as I understand the dynamics at play. Ultimately, understanding requires being vulnerable, admitting my shortcomings, asking for assistance, and opening my mind to new ways of learning and doing. While Davidson prepared me well to adapt in this way, the postgraduate setting has still felt like a substantial change from the learning environment that I had grown accustomed to during my four years at Davidson. Whereas at Davidson, learning opportunities were always directly accessible, learning in the professional world oftentimes requires you to apply more effort in order to receive the answers to your questions. As a result, I have recognized that learning curves will accompany every transition throughout my professional career, but a sense of adaptability and resilience that I developed at Davidson, along with a willingness to question and learn that I have developed at MAHEC will sustain me through the challenges.