“By reaching out to communities and individuals who are otherwise marginalized from ‘mainstream’ medical care..it feels great to be able to spend time really talking with people.”
As a public service organization serving a diverse ethnic community, AMPHS has a similarly diverse volunteer team operating its programs behind the scenes. This month, we had the opportunity to sit down with one of our clinical volunteers, Tess Aldrich to take a look at the work that she does both inside and outside of AMPHS.
Tess is an Adult and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner with a background in public health research. Prior to becoming an NP, she worked at the Population Council in Mexico City and later at Gynuity Health Projects on studies relating to cervical cancer screening and management, family planning, and maternal mortality prevention. After earning her MSN at the Yale School of Nursing, she worked for two years in adult primary care at a federally-qualified community health center based in Harlem. She currently works at the NYU Student Health Center in Women’s Health Services.
What do you do outside of AMPHS?
I work as a Nurse Practitioner at the NYU Student Health Center, primarily in women’s health, managing a variety of gynecologic and primarily care conditions. Because the patient population is, for the most part, comprised of young, healthy individuals, we do a lot of preventive care and education, which I greatly enjoy. There are also opportunities for teaching and mentorship; I precept a Nurse Practitioner (NP) student each semester and recently gave a talk to nursing students on heart disease in women.
Why did you choose to volunteer at AMPHS?
My fist job as an NP was at a community health center in Harlem, where I worked in adult primary care. In this setting, patients presented with a range of chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness. We also saw a number of uninsured individuals, many of whom had not accessed medical care in years. While it was very challenging, I greatly enjoyed this work and wanted to maintain a connection with community health — specifically related to New York’s immigrant population. When I learned about AMPHS and its mission, it sounded like a wonderful opportunity to stay involved.
I’ve had a great experience with AMPHS so far. I’ve particularly enjoyed the community events I participated in this past summer, and was also really impressed with the energy and expertise of the summer interns I met during these activities. The in-house screenings have also been a wonderful opportunity to meet community members I otherwise probably wouldn’t have contact with and to hear about their health concerns. People who attend these screenings range from those who have not seen a health care provider in years (and perhaps don’t know about many resources available to them) to those who are well-informed and very much linked in with health care services — but perhaps want to learn more about a specific health topic.
From a public health perspective, I think one of the biggest challenges that AMPHS has highlighted is that of accessing healthy food options (e.g. fresh, affordable produce) and safe spaces to exercise. At one community event last summer, it was really motivating to see the many participants — young and old alike (including some AMPHS volunteers) — participating in Tai Chi and Zumba classes together. One community group had also set up a cooking station to demonstrate healthy, easy recipes.
How has AMPHS impacted you?
By reaching out to communities and individuals who are otherwise marginalized from “mainstream” medical care, I’m constantly reminded of both how resourceful people are in managing their own health and that of their families, as well as how stressful it can be to live in a city like New York when English is not your first language, and you perhaps don’t feel entirely connected to the myriad communities and services around you. Additionally, while the in-house screenings can get quite busy depending on the number of community members who show up, it’s great to be able to spend time really talking with people and answering questions. As an NP, as much as we strive to give patients adequate time in busy medical practices, the reality is that the visit often ends up feeling quite rushed – which is a constant challenge for both patients and providers.
I do think being exposed early on to as many clinical settings and populations as possible can be critical; not only does this exposure build your skill set and teach the importance of adaptability, but I think it also impresses upon providers the importance of listening to patients and learning from them. I also think for someone just starting out, the importance of good mentorship cannot be stressed enough. As health care providers, we also learn so much from each other. This learning process is important throughout a career but especially valuable in the beginning.
Where do you see yourself in AMPHS in the future?
I think one of the most important aspects of AMPHS’ work is that of directing community members to medical and public health resources available to them. With the Affordable Care Act, hopefully many people who otherwise did not access medical and preventive health care will to do so now; AMPHS is well-situated to act as a liaison between individuals and these services. I also think the counseling/education piece that AMPHS provides (which sometimes falls through the cracks in busy health care settings) is incredibly important.