Summer Wrap-Up Q&A With Leah

By: Leah Daniel

Tell us a little about what you did this summer. 

I had a two-part summer experience, so I spent time in both San Diego, CA and Tarboro, NC. I attended the National Rural Health Association’s Annual Conference in SD. I also interned at the Edgecombe County Health Department (ECHD) working on Maternal and Child Health Initiatives.

What did you learn in San Diego?

I learned so much about rural health policy and the specific challenges facing our population while in San Diego. As a member of a rural community, I really enjoyed hearing people discuss our specific issues and work through how policy based on urban communities may fall short of meeting the needs of rural areas. I was particularly struck by how universal many rural issues are – from North Carolina to Montana and everywhere in between.

What part of the experience was most meaningful to you and why?

I was super excited when former executive director Zack Newbauer, reached out through his position at Daymaker to create a partnership for this holiday season. Thanks to him and the Daymaker team, 168 children in a variety of the Health Department’s programs will be receiving presents this holiday season. I’m so grateful to Zack and everyone at Daymaker for helping make the holidays special for so many kids in Edgecombe County.

How did you choose the ECHD?

My aunt is a nurse there, and I’ve previously shadowed in their clinic, so this was sort of a natural extension of that shadowing work. Everyone there was so welcoming, and I really enjoyed working with the underserved populations that frequent their clinic.

What was your favorite part of working there?

Since a majority of their patients are Spanish-speaking, I had the chance to test my interpreting skills and practice my Spanish a bit. There is one interpreter for the whole department, so she stays very busy. I was happy to help her out on clinic days by giving small instructions and guiding people where they needed to go.

What did your work at ECHD teach you?

It taught me how to connect with all types of people, especially people who are different from me. I enjoyed meeting all of the patients that came through the door and helping them to have the best experience possible in the clinic. When I wasn’t in clinic, I researched important issues such as infant deaths in the county and rates of prenatal care. I then brought this research back to my team and used it to help create a new policy for a maternal and child health initiative that the Health Department had been interested in starting for a couple of years. I enjoyed researching existing policies as well as grant opportunities to ensure that the initiatives will be funded for years to come.

How do you plan to apply what you learned this summer to your future work?

I plan to go to medical school to become an OB-GYN, so shadowing in the ECHD clinic was extremely valuable experience for me. As a Spanish for the Medical Professions minor, I also enjoyed having the opportunity to practice my Spanish. Working in the clinic only reaffirmed my desire to be a fully fluent doctor so that I can connect directly with my Spanish-speaking patients. I also learned this summer that I really enjoy shaping health policy and seeing the impact that it can have on a population, so I now hope to gain more experience in public health and use that to shape my work as a physician.

How did you connect what you learned in San Diego with your work at ECHD?

I really enjoyed bringing everything that I learned at the NRHA conference back to NC and implementing that knowledge in the policies that I created at the ECHD. I was able to use the information I learned regarding maternal and child health and specific initiatives in my conference sessions to shape the maternal and child health policies and initiatives I helped create in Tarboro. I also enjoyed seeing how the policies that I learned about in San Diego actually play out in rural communities like Tarboro.