When I first joined National Health Corps, I was excited for the new perspectives and experiences I would be exposed to, but I had no idea the extent of the web work of opportunities that immediately fell into my grasp. As I began to find my interests as I settled here in Pittsburgh, I had the privilege to explore events and organizations that aligned with my career goals, and much to my surprise, plenty that also sparked new interests. National Health Corps has given me everything I sought out for my year of service; direct contact with local communities, an extensive network for professional development, and unending sources of inspiration.
In my position, part of my role is to make sure resources are accessible for the patients at our clinic to be screened for food security. We collaborate with the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank to provide medically-tailored food boxes for those individuals that ask for assistance in a questionnaire. This process, alongside with the training through National Health Corps, inspired me to see what more can be done. I grew up in Michigan and spent two years in Detroit for graduate school. It astounded me how similar Pittsburgh and Detroit were in terms of healthy, affordable, and accessible food. The term “food desert” comes up often in both cities. It was my hope to connect these two cities, and possibly more, to discuss innovations and ideas on how they’ve tackled this large-scale issue of food security. My curiosity was fostered by our NHC Program Director, and she quickly linked me to individuals and organizations so I could learn more about the great work being done in Pittsburgh to tackle these issues. I have been able to meet with the Food Bank, non-profit food rescue organizations, the Food Policy Council, a Medical Anthropologist, the Director of Health Equity for the Healthcare Council of Western PA, and the professionals at the West Penn Healthy Food Center. Everyone I spoke with has been more than willing to share their wealth of knowledge, support, and passion.
My professional development in NHC has also nurtured my direct interest in medicine. My mentor allows me to observe him at the hospital, I am encouraged to observe procedures at our clinic, and I have the opportunity to shadow other members and the services their clinics provide. For example, it is through these interactions that I have furthered my understanding of the opioid epidemic by observing what kind of treatment plans can be put into action. These encounters have reaffirmed my choice to pursue a career in medicine, after witnessing the level of care and compassion I hope to provide for my own patients one day.
Our service and training committees do an incredible job of educating our Corps on pertinent topics and increasing our exposure to public health and the medical field. Together, we have meaningful reflections, and I’ve enjoyed the challenging discussions that result. Informally, among our Corps, we are quick to notify each other of forums, presentations, and service projects happening within the Pittsburgh area, usually outside of our service sites, so we can all grow as individuals. This exposure to new ideas has expanded my perspective, and I know I will carry these important lessons with me in my career one day. I encourage anyone interested in public health or a year of service to apply to NHC, because whatever you put into your service year you will receive back tenfold! This program may be a wonderful resume builder, but the experiences I’ve had in Pittsburgh serving with National Health Corps has far exceeded what can be put down on paper.
This post was written by NPHC member Sirisha Pasupuleti.
Sirisha serves at Primary Care Health Services, Inc. as a Health Educator