Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Walkin' To New Orleans

Time truly waits for no one! I can't believe we're at the end of August and beginning our third block - Neoplasia/Heme & Pharmacology Foundations. The first weeks were a bit overwhelming with the sheer amount of information presented in such a narrow time window, but all of our professors have been extremely gracious in offering their time outside of class to review topics with us as needed. Through trial, error, and advice from faculty and previous students, I'm slowly finding the best approach to studying and reviewing for exams, and I'm looking forward to this approach being reflected in my block exam score.

Living in New Orleans has exceeded my expectations thus far. Surprisingly, I'm one of only a few students who live Uptown - most of the class lives downtown near the medical school, or in the surrounding suburbs of New Orleans. Initially, I was a little apprehensive about living essentially alone in my area, but that feeling was fleeting. I absolutely love my neighborhood. It's great to be able to leave school or the library and feel like I'm able to turn everything off and go "home." I've developed great relationships within my building, particularly with the security guards at our front desk. These women remind me so much of my grandmothers, my aunts, and my cousins. For whatever reason, they've gone out of their way to check in with me and look out for me, and I'm eternally grateful! Also Uptown, in my opinion, epitomizes the disheartening dichotomy of New Orleans. Living right off of St. Charles, I can look out of my window and see genteel mansions situated directly next to housing projects. Within a one block span, life expectancy may decrease by as much as 20 years. As a new resident here, or even as a tourist, one cannot enjoy the magic of the city without feeling or acknowledging the crippling and pervasive poverty of the city, and I'm grateful to be apart of a medical school that ensures that its students commit to serving communities in need.

This month I've had the pleasure of beginning two service projects that I will continue throughout my time here. Dr. McLaughlin first presented on KIPP schools here in New Orleans, and his passion for these charter schools spilled over into his presentation, and I knew that this was something I wanted to be apart of. After Katrina, the traditional public school system never really recovered. The system was already plagued with ills such as corruption; thus, in place of the traditional public school system, charter schools arose, and KIPP has been somewhat at the forefront of this movement. I volunteer weekly at KIPP Leadership Primary (KLP) in the Bywater neighborhood, and after connecting with Kelsey McLaughlin, the co-founder of the school, I voluntarily helped coordinate and recruit our volunteer team. Our team has grown from originally two volunteers (including me) to about eight student volunteers per week! Everyone is so enthusiastic about volunteering each week, and KLP is so happy to have us. KLP prides itself on instilling a fervor for post-secondary education in students as young as 5-6 years old. Each homeroom in the school is actually named after a university, from LSU to Stanford. Our role as volunteers is to essentially do anything that is needed to support the staff so that they can optimally serve the students. In our first few weeks, our role has been primarily logistical since school has just begun - creating bus schedules for each student, distributing classroom supplies to each homeroom, etc. Last week, one of the teachers needed me to guide his kindergarten class back to their homeroom for dismissal. So, our role as volunteers varies, and our time each week is greatly appreciated.

I also began volunteering with St. Anna's Medical Mission. It's a really unique mission established by St. Anna's Episcopal Parish. On Monday and Wednesday of every week, the mission has a staff of volunteer doctors and medical students who provide health checks, provide prescriptions, and referrals to residents of the surrounding Treme neighborhood. This is one of the neighborhoods that I described earlier - on Esplanade avenue, the large houses and neighborhood have become gentrified, but within blocks, the life expectancy decreases by decades. As a volunteer, I'm learning to take blood pressures and conduct intake health screenings. After speaking with the director of the program, I was also given the opportunity to volunteer with St. Anna's after school program. The program is offered at little to no cost for most participating families thanks in large part to the generosity of parish members and even global companies like Microsoft! We had our orientation on Monday, and I had a chance to meet the families and children and hand out free school supplies. As a volunteer, I will lead a weekly pilot ethics class as part of the structured curriculum. I hope that my class will become one of the most anticipated parts of the students' week. I'm not sure which age group I'll be teaching, but I'm ecstatic about hanging out with the kids and looking forward to this program.

Community Service Totals
August hours: 11