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Saying “See You Later” to Rebecca Shasanmi

August 1, 2012 — “I love this community so much. Before I came here I never thought it could be that deep,” Rebecca Shasanmi shared with us during an intimate conversation about the time she has spent as the Health Promotion and Outreach Associate at 11th Street Family Health Services. The feeling is certainly mutual, and hundreds of patients, staff, and community members whose lives she has touched are preparing to bid her farewell as she transitions to a new chapter in her professional life.

Rebecca came to 11th Street in the spring of 2010 after working in refugee health services in Atlanta, Georgia. She turned down another job offer in Philadelphia because she was “so enthralled by the mission” at 11th Street. Rebecca’s position did not exist at the health center prior to her arrival several years ago, so she worked with 11th Street’s Director, Dr. Patty Gerrity, the staff, and the patients to shape her role. “Letting [the patients] teach me was important,” she said. Rebecca’s approach to defining the job’s responsibilities and actions was well-aligned with one of the health center’s guiding principles: to provide services based upon community-defined needs.

One of those needs quickly became evident: the teens in the community needed more programs for their age demographic. Rebecca said, “The position was initially limited and health center-bound because no one had been in this role before. As I went along, I noticed a big gap in the services we offer to our patients between childhood and adulthood.” Since that time she has developed several of 11th Street’s teen programs and has formed strong partnerships with local area organizations like the Fairmount Boys and Girls Club and the neighboring John Street Center.

Rebecca has also been instrumental in establishing an active Youth Advisory Board. She explained that the members “age up and out,” meaning that they gain momentum and valuable leadership skills while a part of the Youth Advisory Board and then, upon turning 18, often take their advocacy efforts and passion for leadership to the community and region at large. Through several new programs, 11th Street is helping teens gear up to be their own health advocates. Rebecca said, “Quite frankly, if we’re not doing that, we’re not truly serving the community.”

11th Street Director Dr. Patty Gerrity became a mentor and role model for Rebecca. “I’d talk to her about how it all got started. Very few people have the opportunity to sit and talk to someone so incredibly accomplished. She’s such a visionary and I couldn’t have traded the support I got from her for anything,” Rebecca expressed. Dr. Roberta Waite, Associate Professor and Assistant Dean of Academic Integration and Evaluation of Community Programs, was also a mentor. “She helped me to see my future career beyond being a nurse...she helped me articulate my passion to be a nurse educator.” Rebecca will be leaving 11th Street this month to attend George Washington University’s accelerated BSN program full-time.

Rebecca’s ultimate career goal is to set up a community-based health center in the transdisciplinary model in her native country of Nigeria. She plans to use her previous academic background in public health, her experiences in Atlanta and in Philadelphia, as well as the clinical training she will receive at George Washington University this year as preparation for establishing the health center there. And although the 11th Street community will miss her dearly, they are excited to watch Rebecca continue to pioneer change on the systems level that directly affect community and family health. We look forward to watching her follow her passion to other parts of the globe.

Rebecca concluded our interview by saying, “I truly grew. I’m thankful for both the rough spots and for the conversations that have helped me to see how the transdisciplinary model helps the community. I really love 11th Street and I’m glad that situations in my life caused me to move to Philadelphia and have this awesome experience within this community and this health center.” She insists that this is not truly “goodbye,” and that she prefers to say “see you later” since she plans to stay in touch with Dr. Gerrity and 11th Street. To Rebecca, we would like to say thank you for your hard work, energy, and enthusiastic commitment. See you later!

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