Institute Staff Share Stories for National Health Center Week

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Sophia Guida

Institute Staff Share Stories for National Health Center Week

August 30, 2021

This year, National Health Center Week was held August 8-14 to raise awareness about the mission of community health centers, and how they continue to serve patients since the first one opened 50 years ago. During an especially challenging year, community health centers have continued to provide preventive and primary care to their patients serve the needs of the larger community.

The Institute for Family Health celebrated National Health Center Week 2021 by honoring the stories of the people who make the Institute so special, our staff! We asked our staff to submit stories about the impact of working with our patients and communities. We received 24 stories from staff across the Institute highlighting the remarkable work being done in both our health centers and the communities we serve. Stories ranged from providing care to an immigrant new to NYC, administering COVID-19 vaccines to seniors at a local nursing home and assisted living center in the Mid-Hudson Valley to hosting virtual town-halls on Racism and Mental Health.

Here are just a few of the stories we received from our staff:

From Teresa Engert:

“A young, working professional from Russia recently came to the U.S. assuming she would not be able to pay for health care in the U.S. other than what was covered by her traveler’s insurance. She was linked to care through the Free Clinic, where she reports it was a long day, but the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of every team member at 17th Street was like nothing she had ever received. She wanted to be sure the entire team at 17th Street/Free Clinic got a huge “Thank You.”

From Xiangie Salgado Vazquez:

“The practice manager at the New Paltz Family Health Center organized a partnership with Woodland Ponds, a local nursing home and assisted living facility, to vaccinate their residents. The collaboration made it possible for 130 seniors and staff members to be vaccinated on a Saturday. The Nurses, MOAs, PSRs and providers all came together and made the clinic a success. Our VP for Nursing came to help. This clinic made a difference in the lives of members of our community and many patients voiced their gratitude and stated that the actions of the staff gave them hope. For many of the residents it was the first time that they were around others since the pandemic started. For the second doses, the staff did it all over again on Valentine’s Day! I am incredibly proud of the New Paltz Family Health Center team for making a difference and giving hope to the members of the community.”

From Maritza Mejia:

“I was able to help a patient finish his lab case with full dentures. He was extremely excited as he waited for the day he was able to eat his steak again! Definitely an amazing WIN!”

From Stephanie Graziano:

“As a diabetes educator, I proudly serve our diabetes patients in the Hyde Park and Ellenville communities and assist them with managing this very complex disease. Luckily, I have many success stories but one in particular stood out to me this past week. I first met this gentleman in February earlier this year after he was diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes with an A1c over 11%. He was concerned about having to take medications and very resistant to the idea. I assured him that we could work together along with his primary care provider as a team in order to make decisions that he felt comfortable with. After discussing how the medications work and how lifestyle changes could help him lower the doses or even come off medications altogether, he was motivated to make the necessary changes. I am happy to report that our patient has since made significant lifestyle changes, including eliminating all sugary beverages and junk foods, having salads with fruit and lean protein daily for lunch, and doing regular strength training exercises 3-4 times per week. His A1c is now 6%, he has lost 30 lbs, and he has been able to come off one medication entirely and reduced the other to half the dose. Not only has he gotten his diabetes under control, he reports that he feels better, can move around easier, has more energy, and is able to enjoy his life more.”

From Insersi Brea:

“Coming into the Institute for Family Health almost 6 years ago, I thought my job was limited, but as it turns out, is more than just what’s on my description. I remember at the start, I saw patients coming into the site with tears, some yelling, and some just quiet. I just thought to myself, “Wow. These were a lot of heavy feelings.” I continue to do my work with each upset patient that came through the door. My acknowledgement: Welcoming them into the site and just asking simple questions like, “How is your day?” or guiding them through the intake process as smoothly as possible, allowing them to get to know me and giving them the chance to experience health care, especially mental health, free of stigma, change their day and thought. Sometimes just allowing them to show how they felt at the moment is all it took to switch their bad days to good days.”