The Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP (Health Education Learning Program)
In 2009, the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine launched NeighborhoodHELP™, a program employing service-learning to provide students with educational experiences in population-based medicine with a focus on the ethical foundations of medicine, the social determinants of health, and culturally competent primary care, while simultaneously meeting the needs of local communities and households.
FIU medical, nursing, social work, and law students engage households that benefit from regular home visits, comprehensive health and social histories, and the development of a care plan to improve health and quality of life. Supervised by inter-professional faculty, including medical, nursing, and social work faculty members, students assess, respond to, and monitor the health of families.
Lourdes Martin, a clinical instructor who coordinates the NeighborhoodHELP™ program for the School of Social Work, explained that this program represents “a cutting edge and innovative approach to preparing future healthcare professionals to work interprofessionally, while simultaneously providing real world exposure to the needs of our immediate community and offering a glimpse into the impact of social determinants on the health and well-being of consumers. It has proven to be mutually beneficial to our students and the community alike.” Florence Greer, the Practicum Coordinator for the Office of Academic Public Health, also emphasized the impact of this program on local communities: “NeighborhoodHELP is a unique program for residents in Miami Gardens and Opa locka to interact with FIU students from various disciplines with a common goal of serving the needs of families and their well-being within the community.”
Students involved in the program offered fairly similar feedback. Teresa Rojek, a Master student in Social Work set to graduate in December 2013, participated in the program as a case manager during the 2012 Summer and Fall semesters. For Rojek, who plans to work as a clinical social worker, potentially with veterans, the program’s interdisciplinary pedagogical approach is key: “It is imperative with the upcoming changes in the healthcare field that social work and healthcare students have experience in inter-disciplinary settings” and her most important take from this experience was actually “learning to take other discipline’s goals and perspectives into consideration when working with clients and their families.”
Liliana Vargas, another Master student in the School of Social Work who plans to graduate in Spring 2014 is interested in becoming a medical social worker. Vargas explained that for her, there are two really valuable aspects to this program: “The first is having the opportunity to help underserved communities and the second is the experience of working in interdisciplinary teams. It’s wonderful for students to come together as a team and combine their strengths in order to assist an individual or family.” At the personal level, Vargas stated that this program allowed her “to apply the knowledge and skills [she] learned from the social work program into a real life setting.”