Allison Gutierrez, Class of 2018, knew she would be exploring a future career in women's health at Drexel University College of Medicine. Once enrolled, however, she discovered her second passion — working with underserved patients. She combined both interests in the program she launched her first year: Mothers and Baby Dragons. The program pairs medical students with low-income moms to help them prepare for birth and parenthood. Gutierrez found that the College of Medicine encourages student innovation and leadership — so much so that she started a second initiative.
FINDING A NEED
As I worked with patients at a student-run clinic, I was really struck by the poverty and its impact on their health, particularly during the stressful months of pregnancy. I was inspired to find more ways to help this vulnerable population. I came up with the idea for the program, and before I knew it, it just took off. We ended up matching 250 pairs of mothers and students over the past three years.
Creating the program required getting support from the school and faculty, and the response was immediately positive. I went to the director of the Women's Health Pathway (the women's health concentration), and she helped me find a location where we could base our program. I got funding from the student government and started creating ads to attract participants. Eventually, I set up a leadership team so we could keep the program going year after year. I've found that my fellow students are always eager to get involved and help in whatever way they can.
We saw right away that we could really help people with this program. Some of the work is simply getting women ready for labor and delivery and breastfeeding. But some of it is helping moms who are struggling with depression or abusive relationships. We might assist them in finding needed resources, like cribs, car seats, and transportation to prenatal appointments, or work with them to navigate the social services system. I came to Drexel with the goal of doing something I enjoyed and hopefully — as I learned from the Girl Scouts — to leave something good behind. I had an idea and I ran with it, and it's been wonderful to watch it grow.
These days, I'm working on something called the Baby Box Project. We are creating boxes with a fitted mattress to act as a functioning bassinet for the baby, to discourage co-sleeping with the parents in hopes of reducing infant mortality rates. We fill the boxes with information and essential baby supplies and distribute them to women in need who deliver at Hahnemann University Hospital. We are creating 500 boxes this year, with the support of the chair of Drexel Obstetrics & Gynecology and donations from the community.
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