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ASU students who volunteer with the non-profit community gain first-hand experience working with communities
When COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic, volunteers at Phoenix Allies for Community Health immediately took action.
They switched all patient visits to telehealth. They dropped off food and medicine for patients, many of whom live in neighborhoods without good access to fresh food.
PACH is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to improving health outcomes in low-income communities with minimal access to primary care. Its core project is a free primary care clinic in Phoenix serving the uninsured and underserved.
Arizona State University student Nargish Patwoary is a member of the PACH board of directors. Born and raised in Arizona, Patwoary studied the biological sciences with the goal of becoming a physician advocating for health justice for marginalized populations. It leans for public health or global health.
“I really want to inject activism and advocacy as a doctor because everyone deserves the right to equitable and accessible health care,” she said. “When I’m not in the classrooms, I dedicate my time to making a positive impact on my community and other communities through service. And to me, service means anything, like being a student leader, helping an organization, helping my peers with homework, or volunteering at the clinic. I think I’m still looking for a way to contribute to the community, which has led me to join various organizations at ASU.
Patwoary served as vice president of the American Medical Student Association on the West Campus and is currently a member of the Campus Inclusion Committee on the Tempe Campus. She is also the chair of the Pitchfork Pantry for the West Campus and uses various platforms to help address the issue of food insecurity among West Campus students.
Patwoary spoke with ASU Now about the volunteer work she does at PACH, what it has been like to respond to the pandemic locally, and what patients think about the treatment they have received.
Question: What is Phoenix Allies for Community Health doing?
Reply: PACH began when a group of immigrant rights and health justice activists in Phoenix organized around an urgent need to help those without access to health care affordable. We started out as a collective of street doctors, formed to provide emergency care during numerous protests that arose out of Arizona’s anti-immigrant laws and raids on migrant workplaces. We practice cultural competence when serving our patients because the majority of our patient population are immigrants. The PACH Clinic strives to be more than just a free version of America’s broken healthcare structure. We seek to build collaborative relationships with the community we serve. Since one of our goals is to improve health outcomes, we believe that community health education is an integral part of the clinic, including nutritional counseling, diabetes education, public health initiatives, life coaching and yoga classes.
Q: How has PACH responded to the pandemic?
A: I of course returned to PACH the following week, the news broke and everything had changed. We have protocols for who is allowed to enter the building and under what circumstances – so we check people’s temperatures and ask them not to come if they are sick – and only volunteers are allowed to enter the building. building. This pandemic is scary, yes, but the strength and resilience of our patients and volunteers only strengthens my determination to continue serving my community in this capacity and does not deter my dream of becoming a doctor.
Q: What did you do? How do you help them medically?
A: We do all patient visits by phone call, also known as telehealth, and we were the first to implement this method in the Valley. Clinically, I accompany patients through medical assistance and taking medical notes; however, due to the pandemic, I am making registrations at this time. The majority of our patients speak Spanish so what happens is we have the patient and the provider on the phone, while I’m at the clinic writing down all the details about the patients’ symptoms and the life to home, as well as the prescription and diagnosis of providers.
Being a scribe really gave me a lot of insight and allowed me to see how vulnerable a person can be with their doctor and how sacred the relationship is. And also, I can see how each provider is unique in their approach to helping the patient and building trust in this relationship. It really is a beautiful thing to be able to witness and such a privilege that I have this opportunity to do so – and quite an eye opener too, because you can also witness the health injustices that many patients endure before they go. come and see us.
I also help create the food boxes for our patients with my fellow volunteers, many of whom are ASU students. … Additionally, because I am also a student leader at ASU on multiple campuses, I have been able to recruit other ASU pre-health students who are looking for clinical and volunteer experience, but who also understand the importance and philosophy of what we are trying to do. at PACH. And I think a lot of this is due to the fact that many of us are sons and daughters of immigrants and have first hand experiences of the hoops and hurdles we had to go through to get proper health care. Many of our leadership positions at PACH are also often filled by ASU students.
Q: What was the reaction of the people you served?
A: This country has a long history of institutional racism that permeated our health care system, so I think our presence is a comfort to many. Many of them express their thanks and gratitude to us, and even give all they can because they believe in what we do. However, our patients are people too. They are human beings who just want to be healthy and want their families and friends to be healthy as well. These are hard-working families who came to this country with the dream of a better and happy life. I know when we talk about vulnerable communities like the ones our patients belong to, it’s easy to pity them because of the many health disparities that occur, but our patients are strong and resilient people. They are full of love and life, and I want the whole world to see it too.
Top image courtesy of Sabine van Erp from Pixabay