By: Alexa Hirschberg
Last year, I took my studies across the pond to pursue the Health and Society program at King’s College of London. This module integrated seminars and clinical shadowing, allowing for students, like myself, to take our education beyond the textbook and further put studies to practice. As I developed an awareness of the patient experience and that of the healthcare practitioner from a scientific, scholastic and professional perspective, I also cultivated a holistic understanding of healthcare in the United Kingdom.
Although focused on healthcare, this course was interdisciplinary by nature, as lectures were led by academics from various backgrounds and specialties. Topics ranged from ethical reasoning and confidentiality to communication skills and role-playing scenarios. History and law were discussed as we took a journey through the National Health Service from its origins to how it currently functions on the ground in daily life. We visited the National Gallery, and learned about visual thinking as an important part of patient-provider communication. We honed our observational skills by interpreting art to understand narratives and engage with the social contexts of each piece. This exercise was then carried out into our clinical practices.
Clinical placement was also varied; I shadowed professionals in a general practice, a sexual health center, and an osteopathic manipulative treatment office. As a practitioner of alternative medicine in my own life, I found it particularly interesting to see how osteopathy is integrated into the British healthcare system such that existing social and political structures encourage patients to support these forms of treatment. Patients also felt at liberty to see their physicians more frequently, as they did not have the financial burdens with which United States citizens are charged. The Health and Society program inspired me to look more closely into the ways in which social structures influence individuals’ and societies’ experiences of health, illness and wellness.
Upon returning to Emory, I felt driven to extend my experience and keep working in the field of healthcare while finishing my studies in Human Health and Health Innovation, a program based on a collaboration between CSHH and Goizueta Business School aiming to train students to pursue careers in business and health. To satisfy this craving, I began working for locateyourcare, a digital health startup based in Atlanta. Through this experience, I was exposed to a different demographic than that of my study abroad experience, which challenged me to further expand my knowledge and skill set.
I started attending regional conferences and local events in the field of health technology and was introduced to the growing healthcare startup ecosystem in Atlanta. By May, my part-time job turned into a full-time opportunity for the summer. I spent the past several months down south engaging with the startup community and expanding my professional network. As I prepare to graduate, I look forward to new experiences that meet at the intersection of my academic and professional passions.
The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, required every documented resident of the United States to have health insurance as of January 1, 2014. Health insurance, in the simplest terms, covers health and medical costs. For example, it can cover emergency rooms, the costliest sites of care, primary care visits, and promotes the early detection of chronic diseases. Despite efforts by the federal government and even with the newly established health insurance marketplaces, many people still remain unaware of the health insurance options that have recently become available. Underserved populations, like those found in safety-net hospitals and low-income housing neighborhoods, face even further barriers accessing basic resources.
The Resource and Insurance Navigator Group (RING) was created by a group of undergraduate students at Emory who observed a lack of education about the Affordable Care Act. They decided to create a group that promoted education in the new bill by creating student leaders in universities across Georgia who work to reduce health disparities through volunteer outreach. RING’s volunteers provide one-on-one insurance application assistance, through a new initiative created by the RING leadership team called post-enrollment education. This allows the RING members and volunteers to sit down with a person both before and after enrolling in the health insurance marketplace and talk to them about their plan, what benefits they will receive with their coverage, and answer any questions they may have. Student volunteers are also on the ground helping with enrollment campaign efforts and enrollment events.
RING is focused on more than just health insurance. The amount of Georgians enrolling in the marketplace has decreased, which in turn has increased the initiative to educate and connect the community to the resources around them. RING not only plans on working to create a comprehensive map of the Atlanta community in order to showcase resources such as clinics, enrollment centers, dental care, etc., but is also focused on generalized access to healthcare.
In 2015, one of the exec board members of RING made it her mission to address the problem of food deserts. These areas lack basic and convenient access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and grocery stores or farmer’s markets are nowhere to be found. RING has become actively involved with a community garden in Snellville, Georgia – the Project Generation Gap (PGG) Community Garden. The Garden aims to involve local families in the gardening process, educating them on healthy eating habits, gardening, and nutrition initiatives that will allow volunteers to get a hands-on and healthy experience.
RING is committed to reducing health disparities throughout Georgia by training student leaders to participate in volunteer outreach, raise awareness of health resources, and assist consumers in health insurance application and enrollment. RING also has began expanding, and recently established a chapter at Georgia Tech, and plans on expanding to many technical colleges. RING builds leadership opportunities for bright and motivated student volunteers. Students team up with these individuals to fight the uphill battle in gaining access to health insurance and fulfilling the fundamental right to health.
If you are interested in joining the organization or becoming a volunteer, please email email@example.com