Volunteer Spotlight

Summer outings for our volunteers

Volunteering is about finding a cause you believe in, and helping other people with your skills and experience. But it’s also about spending time with people you like!

Summer is a great time for that, and several of our volunteers filled their bellies at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg during a group outing this past Saturday. With volunteering, careers, kids and life, it’s hard to find time when everyone can get together, so we were excited to see everyone who came out.

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A potluck dinner is scheduled for this coming Tuesday, the 22nd, at the park in Sunset Park, for those who couldn’t make it on Saturday – or who are still hungry!

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Volunteer Spotlight: Dennis Zheng, Chinese Translator

dennis picMost people who encounter us are surprised when they hear that AMPHS is a completely volunteer-run organization, and we thank our outstanding volunteers for their time, effort and, most of all, their unwavering devotion to our mission. For this issue of the newsletter, we decided to interview one of our volunteers, Dennis Zheng. He has been volunteering as a Chinese translator since November 2013, and has been an invaluable asset to AMPHS.

“I believe that AMPHS is a trusted resource that the community of Sunset Park relies on for their health concerns and questions.”

What do you do outside of AMPHS?

I work for Healthfirst, an organization that provides free and low-cost health insurance plans to eligible adults, children, families, and seniors living in New York State, as a field interpreter. I travel within the five boroughs to interpret for senior members in their semi-annual reassessments. The reassessment is important for them to make sure that their health care service is up to date and appropriate to their needs. Under the managed long-term care program, I have worked closely with the elderly, Chinese-speaking population of NYC. My role is to enable members to speak up for their needs and receive the quality of care they deserve.

Why did you choose to volunteer with AMPHS?

After I started working in the healthcare field, I felt like I was put in the frontline interacting with members. I understood that accessing healthcare is already hard, and the language barrier makes it even harder. The majority of the elderly population is uneducated, and many suffer from forgetfulness. Elderly people who live on their own are vulnerable, and unable to speak up for themselves. I know there is a great need in the Chinese community to receive the most basic and appropriate health care, so I wanted to use my language skills to fill in the gap. AMPHS’ values, vision, and mission attracted me to be a part of their team and their work. I do believe that AMPHS is a trusted resource that the community of Sunset Park relies on for their health concerns and questions.

Could you share a story with a community member that stands out in your memory?

I remember one particular community member whom I never met in person, but spoke to many times over the phone. He was calling to find out more about our vision assistance program, and I helped him apply for prescription lens. Because of his long working hours, he couldn’t visit AMPHS’ open house screening. Sheila Raj, AMPHS’ social worker, and I tried to schedule a trip to the optician for him, but we couldn’t coordinate it. A few weeks passed and I was upset because it seemed as though he would never have a chance to receive an eye exam or get glasses. To my surprise, he showed up on a Saturday at the AMPHS offices and finally got the care he deserved. I was very touched to see AMPHS’s direct impact on community members.

Volunteer Spotlight: Tess Aldrich, Clinical Volunteer

“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.”

IMG_3531As 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.

DSC_0726What has your experience been your experience as a clinical volunteer thus far?

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.

DSC_5559Do you have any suggestions for someone interested in a career in the healthcare field?

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.