Over the summer I participated in a program in Costa Rica called Rustic Pathways. Within the program a significant portion of our time was dedicated towards community service. Our group helped a local community to build homes and keep their beaches clean. The process of helping a family build their homes was deeply moving to me. On our first day of helping to build we were introduced to the families that lived in the community. They were extremely open and were always there to help if you needed it. Over the course of my stay in Costa Rica, the group and I helped to construct another room for a home. The gratification that I received on the last day as I watched the kids I had become close with smile and yell in excitement at the new room of their home was immeasurable. Before we left from our final session of service the man who owned the property and had helped with construction came to me and said, “You always have friends here, if you ever need a place to stay my home is your home.” I will never forget the feeling that those words gave me.
Our group was tasked with finding a health issue within the Bronx and creating a facility in order to help towards this issue. My group decided to focus in on the consumption of fruits and vegetables, which proved to be statistically inconsistent in regards to how much people consumed, especially in Kingsbridge, Bronx. In the process of finding the statistics of fruit and vegetable consumption, I realized the importance of looking at the data as a whole, as opposed to looking only at a particular year, as distinguishing between the two greatly affects whether what you’re researching may actually be an issue exclusive to the area or not. I would pursue this further, but I would do further research as I believe issues such as food consumption are simply underlying byproducts of larger issues that exist within a city, or even an entire society.
My group was tasked with creating a clinic to help solve a health problem in the borough of Queens. After looking at the data we found that in Rockaway specifically, while there are similar rates of HIV among residents there, there are more people that die from it compared to the rest of the city. This meant that the people in Rockaway didn’t have the resources to deal with HIV once they had contracted it and so we proposed to set up a clinic there where people can receive treatment for the virus to help live normal lives while dealing with it.
By doing this project I became more aware of the struggles of providing healthcare for people. First of all, it is extremely expensive to find somewhere to open up a place in New York due to property being so expensive. Also the supplies for a clinic are also extremely expensive and with both of these together plus the cost of paying doctors makes running a clinic very costly. The real challenge comes from trying to find a way to pay for all of this because it doesn’t work in the same way that a store does trying to sell its products to anybody it can sell them to.
After looking at the way that healthcare works in New York, I would be more interested in looking into ways to make it more efficient.
This summer I got to volunteer at Mount Sinai Queens. It was an honor to work there and I throughly enjoyed it. There were many components to my work there: I worked with equipment, I assisted the doctors, and I talked to the patients, which was my favorite part of the experience. I loved getting to know each of the patients because of their diversity. The hospital is located in Astoria, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in New York, and because of this, I got to meet people of all different different walks of life. Of course many of the people were elderly, and I loved hearing their stories about their life. I particularly liked hearing about the New York of old, given the constantly changing nature of the city.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of helping set up the lower school halloween party. It was so gratifying to blow up balloon after balloon, knowing that little children would be enjoying them later. Carrying boxes of candy up and down stairs was hard, but it was worth it knowing that the kids would go nuts over all the candy. The best part of the service experience was coming back the next day and getting to stand in the haunted hallway of the party, scaring little children. It was fun to dress up and spook the kids, and though some of them were unfazed, some of them got truly scared. The only downside was that I was wearing an itchy beard and the hallway was really hot, so I started to sweat profusely. However, this likely made me seem even more scary to the children, adding to my joy. I enjoyed knowing I was getting my service done in a fun, frightful, way.
I was so lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Tobago with the Men’s Varsity Soccer team in late August. Service was a large component to our trip. Our service included helping to organize soccer training sessions for local children. After the session we presented soccer equipment to donate to the kids who participated in the training session, as part of a program called “Kleats for Kids.” Playing with and joking around with the kids during the training session before we helped them try cleats on made the donations feel even more special. Also, the fact that we were able to help Warren in his effort to give back to the school and soccer program that he attended made the experience feel more personal.
In Epidemiology, my group was charged with finding a health problem in the borough of Staten Island and creating a grant proposal for an initiative to help the population with that problem. In our research, my group and I found that a very low percentage of the population of S.I. had been tested for HIV, and that an even lower percentage used condoms when they engaged in sexual activities (which was shocking). Given this revelation, we decided to create a proposal for an HIV testing facility and general sexual health clinic in the most affected neighborhoods of Staten Island. It was kind of appalling to see that the more forgotten boroughs and the outer edges of our city are often neglected when it comes to healthcare, especially new developments in sexual health relating to HIV/AIDS. Although there were a couple of other similar clinics in the area, they were in limited areas and were only open for a few inconvenient hours a day.
In the process of creating a plausible proposal for our clinic, we got to see a little bit of how difficult it is to respond to healthcare inequality in our world. It was a challenge to find an affordable location for our clinic that was also easily accessible for the population of Staten Island, which is a borough with a relatively limited public transportation system. It was also hard to develop a budget that was suitable to the needs of a health clinic but still low enough that we could maintain the clinic for years to come. Thankfully, we were able to find several foundations willing to provide money for HIV clinics like ours.
This project made me and my group members much more aware of the health inequities that go on in the world and even the city we live in. We often forget about healthcare problems that don’t really affect us, but especially in more neglected places those issues can become very serious. I don’t know how I could help, but if I were given the opportunity to improve our healthcare system create a better situation for the multitude of unattended people out there, I would not hesitate to help out and try to balance the state of health in the world.
In my Epidemiology class, I, along with my group members Nicolette and Jared, developed a theoretical proposal to create a diabetic clinic in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. In addition to the data on the neighborhood’s data on diabetes, I found that Bedford-Stuyvesant is on the lower end in terms of both healthcare and poverty rates, with many people never going to a hospital, despite needing care, and a poverty rate of 33%. Since the diabetes rate was also rather high (16%), we wanted to open up a clinic that would be affordable and may encourage residents to approach their personal health in a more effective manner.
For me, it was rather challenging to figure out which neighborhood to choose in Brooklyn and what issue we wanted to focus on. There are many neighborhoods in Brooklyn with serious health conditions affecting the and there are numerous health problems in just the Bedford-Stuyvesant area. Learning that the clinic could not be a complete solution to everything diabetes related was a little frustrating, as the clinic could not logistically support most of the diabetes at Bedford-Stuyvesant at a any specific time, due to factors like space, supplies, money, and ease of access.
For me, I think researching more into public or private grants related to diabetic healthcare, or the encouragement of the creation of more of it, would be helpful.
This summer, we took a trip to Tobago for service, training, and bonding. It was an amazing experience all around and I had a great time. We worked for the organization Kleats for Kids, distributing cleats, shinguards, and goalie gloves. We also trained the kids. We went to 2 different places, both schools and trained the kids and gave them new equipment. It was also Amazing bonding and just a fun thing to do.
During the summer, I was fortunate to be chosen as a Student Volunteer in the Genetics Laboratory at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. My role had many components. I assisted the post-doctoral researchers with their bench work by labeling test tubes, organizing lab space, sealing boxes with kits, culturing cells, and organizing samples. I also organized data using a computer program named Python. The data related to research on the genetic components of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Ashkenazi Jewish people. I also did research to assist in identifying genes relating to disorders such as Crohn’s Disease. After the summer, I was asked to stay on to work on research relating to genetic influences on responsiveness to treatments. I will be analyzing data and possibly assisting in the preparation of a research article on a clinical trial where Glucose-Insulin-Potassium (GIK) therapy is administered to people having heart attacks. I will analyze whether individuals with particular genetic components are more responsive to this treatment. My volunteer work at Mount Sinai is obviously an educational experience for me. However, the work has an even more important aspect because I assisted scientists in helping people who are afflicted with genetic diseases that severely alter their quality of life. Knowing that I can help people who are ill, even if in a very small way, truly gave me a glimpse into why people pursue careers in medical research.