Today, Americans from around the country are calling Senators urging them to support the Corporation for National and Community Service, the parent organization of AmeriCorps. Working at CHC, I’ve seen some of the great work that AmeriCorps members do in our communities. I mentioned this in a blog post about our diabetic retinopathy program which has benefited greatly from one of our AmeriCorps members. One response that I received was the suggestion that I write about two specific AmeriCorps Alumni. So, I spent some time earlier today talking with two doctors at CHC who were AmeriCorps members in the 1990s.
Dr. Daisy Wynn spent a year as an AmeriCorps member after her senior year of college at a women’s health clinic in Greenbelt, MD. At the end of her year, she decided to continue on for another two years. During this time she helped train new AmeriCorps members. She also learned a lot about different aspects of medical care, including the role Advanced Practice Nurses (APRNs) and Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) play in the health care system. Her opportunities to learn from people from other backgrounds, both providers and patients, have helped her become the doctor she is.
Her experiences getting to know patients also helped her as she returned to rigorous classroom studies. They helped her remain focused on what matters in quality health care, attention to the patients, and not have medicine become a depersonalized subject.
Dr. Dipak Patel shared similar thoughts with me. Dr. Patel spent a year at Delaware Valley Community Health, Inc. in Philadelphia. He spoke about the value of meeting people from different medical disciplines. In his case, he decided to become an osteopathic doctor based on his interactions with the chief medical officer there. Even though he had worked as an EMT volunteer and a Big Brother during his undergraduate years, Dr. Patel also learned a lot from the patients he encountered at Delaware Valley Community Health, Inc. At the end of his year at the health center, he traveled abroad to further broaden his experiences providing health care to diverse populations, including spending time in India and Kenya.
As our nation debates the value of national service programs like AmeriCorps, it is helpful to look not only at current AmeriCorps members or recent graduates, but at those who participated in the program over a decade ago; doctors who have completed medical school and their residencies and are now providing quality primary health care. Based on my discussions with Dr. Wynn and Dr. Patel, we would be well served to have more doctors that have served as AmeriCorps members.