This past Wednesday Alexis Engelhart spoke about her medical brigade experience in Honduras and her newfound journey to learn Spanish during one of Kent Library's Athenaeum series. Something that Alexis said really spoke to me. She mentioned that she was one of those who approached patients from the typical US medical model: get them in and out and don't worry too much about who they are. She said that going to Honduras on two medical missions plus studying Spanish in the context of health care has made her examine how she treats the patients she comes in in contact with. She reminisces that she didn't even tell them her name, just did what she was supposed to do, completely detached from the patient. She said that she is changing her approach to her patients now, seeing them more holistically now as a person that is more than aproblem.
I had tears in my eyes as she was speaking. First, I was so proud of her for all that she has accomplished and her determination is what we all need a dose of. Most importantly, I was humbled to hear that she had taken from my classes a very human-centered approach to health care, that caring about the human and what happens to them is important. In my Spanish for Health Professions we talk a lot in English about a human-centered health approach, something I am challenging myself to implement in my classes, to see the student as a whole person with a life and dreams, desires, experiences and problems outside my class. It is making me a better teacher and I still have so far to go.
Today we took students to the Casa de Salud, an immigrant health clinic in St. Louis on the campus of Saint Louis University. You can hear about Casa and its mission on Tuesday, October 3 at 3:00 in Glenn Auditorium. Essentially, this clinic doesn't turn anyone away because of lack of insurance or ability to pay. They don't ask your documentation status; they don't care if you've been there three times and haven't paid anything; they don't bill you; they don't judge you for anything. With the help of Saint Louis University and Washington University Schools of Medicine they are able to help the most vulnerable in our society.
The students were amazed. I spoke with Alexis and Zack Koeller, two students in my Spanish III for Health Professions course, and both were humbled by what Casa is able to do. Our students were from all disciplines and each one found something beneficial from the experience and information about what Casa de Salud does.
Many of us talk to our students about compassionate health care. Professors Brooke Clubbs and Linda Garner both take this approach in their health communications and nursing courses. They encourage their students to see the humanity of the patient. Income shouldn't be taken into consideration when determining how to help your patient. The goal should be to help the patient keeping their interest in mind and not our own. This is also part of the Community Health Worker philosophy. Cultural humility is at the heart of the CHW and failure to comply with instructions doesn't mean we should stop caring and helping the patient.
Our visit today gave us the opportunity to show our students another approach to how we as humans should care for our fellow humans, regardless of color, ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, or documentation status. We are one in the human race.