As the service year begins to draw to a close, I am left reflecting upon the experiences and growth that this year has given me while still trying to soak up as much as I can in my last two months here. My experiences with the Birmingham Free Clinic have undoubtedly been a catalyst for growth for myself and have pushed me to think, learn, and do things differently each day. I have learned so much about the healthcare system, the people it serves, and the people who slip through its cracks. My understanding of underserved populations has grown ten-fold along with my knowledge of barriers and social determinants of health. My love for public health continues to grow each day, as well. All of this growth has stemmed from my decision to join the National Health Corps- Pittsburgh and pursue something I have always been passionate about. I absolutely believe that engaging in a year of service is a great catalyst for personal growth and reflection.
Prior to this year, my experiences never expanded much further than the state of Wisconsin and my coursework in public health wasn’t applied much broader than the scope of the classroom. Although I felt compelled by what I was learning and felt drawn to public health for more reasons than I can list, I was lacking an understanding I could only get from a year devoted to serving others, learning, and growing. Before wanting to pursue my Master’s in Public Health, I was craving to learn more and broaden my horizons. I wanted to apply what I had learned in the classroom and in my life experiences to boots-on-the-ground public health efforts. I wanted to fail beautifully, I wanted to rejoice in my successes, and I wanted to grow.
My time at the Birmingham Free Clinic has given me exactly that. Serving as a Patient Care Navigator has given me the opportunity to interact with and learn from a wide range of professionals, students, and most importantly, patients. I have seen how socioeconomic status, race, literacy, environment, access to food, transportation, housing, and a multitude of other factors impact a patient’s health. As a Patient Care Navigator, I have had first-hand experience meeting patients where they are at and helping them navigate these barriers. At times, it has been complex, frustrating, and the outcomes were not what I had hoped. At other times, I have revelled in success- no matter how big or small those successes were. In the process, I have been able to learn more about myself and others, reflect on my privileges, learn more about systemic inequities, learn how to grow from setbacks, and so much more. I am certain that there is a lot more growth and learning in store for me in these next two months and I’m very excited for what lies ahead.
This post was written by NPHC member Ingie Osman.
Ingie serves at Birmingham Free Clinic as a Patient Navigator.