July 15, 2019
Last month I introduced you to our LGBTQ-PM Student Group and their president, Adam Dykie. For this installment of "Meet Our Student Organizations," I'm featuring our Health Outreach Project or HOP Clinics. HOP is a Drexel student-run organization that helps provide care for underserved communities in Philadelphia through free health clinics and related services. HOP co-chairs Ryan Godinez and Elizabeth Centurion sat down to tell me more about themselves and the organization.
Tell me a little about yourselves and how you became involved with HOP.
Ryan Godinez: I came to Drexel from San Antonio, Texas, as a non-traditional student in the Drexel Pathway to Medical School (DPMS) Program, which is a one-year Master of Science degree designed for talented, underserved students who have interest in attending Drexel's MD program and have completed traditional pre-med coursework. Students who successfully complete the program are accepted into Drexel's MD program. I arrived with a lot of clinical and work experience, but as a non-traditional student, I had some stumbles along the way. DPMS offered a great support network and helped me hone my skills for medical school and eased the transition process.
I heard about HOP during my first year of medical school and thought that it would be beneficial to get involved with a program where students were able to utilize the skills we were being taught. As someone coming to med school with work experience, this action-oriented approach to learning really spoke to me. As I got to know the outgoing executive board, I was impressed by their dynamic energy and the pride and passion with which they spoke about the HOP clinics that they worked with. It inspired me to continue their legacy. My involvement with HOP helps me remember what my end goal is and allows me to see the impact I can have as a health care provider. Even now with my limited knowledge, I see patients leave the clinics grateful for what myself and the other student volunteers are able to give them. For some people it is clinical care, but for many others it is just the fact that we acknowledge their journey as human beings.
Elizabeth Centurion: I'm a Philly girl, born and bred, but my family immigrated from Paraguay in the late 1980s in search of a better life, so that culture is also a big part of who I am. My parents instilled a strong work ethic and perseverance in me and my siblings, and I credit that with helping me to get to Drexel and medical school. Believe it or not, I applied to medical school 3 times! It would've been easy to give up after my first rejection letter and find a different path, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. I got into Drexel and it couldn't have been a better match for me. Drexel's commitment to the community really opened my eyes to different patient populations, giving me huge respect for the health care industry and convincing me that medicine is truly my calling.
I was introduced to HOP through my experience with one of their clinics, "Mommy and Me." It really pulled me in and showed me first-hand the impact we can have on the community even as students. We can make a difference even if we aren't doing clinical diagnosis. Sometimes when you're in the thick of med school and mired in books and school work, it is really hard to remember why you're here. Being involved in HOP has helped remind me of my purpose here.
What does your role as HOP co-chairs entail?
RG: As co-chairs for HOP, we oversee all the student-run clinics and projects. Because we don't necessarily have a direct clinical role, we can serve as visionaries and advocates to make sure that all clinics and voices are represented. We need to be well-versed in the clinics and projects, but our role is to make sure that the individuals who run the projects and clinics have the resources they need to get the job done.
What do you want others to know about HOP?
EC: Drexel's Health Outreach Project is one of the largest student run clinics in the country. We provide access to medical care for various demographics in Philly who otherwise wouldn't get access to this type of care. For students, this is an amazing opportunity to practice hands-on application and be exposed to different patient populations and different health care disparities. The clinics provide exposure for students who may not have the chance to engage with these communities otherwise. For many students, it can be an eye opening and transformative experience.
RG: While other med schools have these types of programs, ours is special in that we have five clinics with extensive student administrative oversight. These clinics target diverse populations: women and children, people living with intellectual disabilities, people living with addiction, people experiencing homelessness, and so forth. Clinics are interlinked and there are projects that span these different clinics and populations. Students can tailor their projects in order to better address disparities in care in the communities they are actively engaged in. This requires students to develop relationships with the communities they serve and enables them to utilize their experience, interests, and passion to provide focused compassionate care. It is supervised and monitored by Drexel staff and faculty, but HOP is really what Drexel med students make it. HOP will continue to grow and be informed by med students.
Further, we strongly believe that this program supports our diversity and inclusion mission because our med students get to go out to experience real world medicine and interact with many different environments, personalities and communities.
How can someone get involved?
RG: If you have an interest, regardless of your role or where you are in your med school journey, reach out and get involved. We are always looking for volunteers and will be happy to find a role for you.
EC: Also, as we mentioned earlier, our program is informed by our students, so we are open to new ideas. We want to grow and morph, and we can only do that with ideas from the community.