The Columns

Changing Perspectives: Abby Block ’17 Changing Perspectives, The Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio

— by on September 5th, 2016

Abby Block '17

“In discovering clinical pharmacy and its growing influence on the population’s health, I have found a possible role for me to improve health literacy and opportunity for the underserved.”

What attracted you to this internship?

From the start, I was excited to have my first real experience in the healthcare field. The more I learned about the addiction treatment side of the internship, I was intrigued by the chance to witness something outside of my own personal experience. Seeing the multi-layered relationship between healthcare, addiction and poverty would give me perspective for how I want to approach my career path of pharmacy.

How did you learn about it?

I learned about this opportunity through my involvement in the Shepherd Program. Fran Elrod pointed me in the right direction.

What gave you the edge in landing this internship?

My interest in pharmacy and poverty combined with my neuroscience major allowed me to stand out through my concern for its interaction with healthcare, psychology and mental health.

Describe your daily duties.

My duties vary day-to-day as I travel to different branches and organizations associated with the Cleveland Clinic. I work on population management quality health projects, assist in the infectious disease unit with HIV positive patients, volunteer with the Free Clinic’s syringe exchange program, participate in inpatient and outpatient alcohol drug and recovery programs, shadow in the area drug court program, and had the unique opportunity to shadow clinical pharmacists.

What are some tasks/projects you’ve been working on?

The main project I have been working on deals with quality healthcare in an underprivileged neighborhood in Cleveland. Going through patient records to refer follow up appointments, I assist in managing their chronic hypertension and diabetes. Through the syringe exchange program, I assisted in providing clean and safe alternatives for IV drug users, HIV testing and treatment options available in the area. For the HIV unit, I worked on putting together a user-friendly leaflet for HIV positive patients that would clearly identify the many resources offered to them by the Cleveland Clinic.

Have any courses and/or professors helped you prepare for this internship? Which ones?

My poverty courses helped me to approach this internship experience with empathy and awareness. Poverty 101 with Professor Pickett provided me with background and perspective about the population I am serving. Fieldwork in Poverty with Professor Brotzman allowed me to examine my role and responsibilities to the underserved. Poverty, Ethics and Religion with Professor Pickett forced me to attempt understanding the roots of our responsibility to the poor. Classes for my neuroscience major like Neuroscience 120 with Dr. Stewart and Biology 283 with Dr. Toporikova helped me to better understand the science behind addiction as a disease.

What do you hope to learn by the end of your experience?

By the end of the summer, I hope to have an idea of where my place in society is. Through my pharmacy studies, I want to be able to build a socially conscious career that allows me to use the healthcare system in America to the advantage of the underprivileged.

What was your favorite part of the internship?

The best part of my learning experience was the variety of people and places I was able to interact with. I had the chance to form my ideas from so many interacting perspectives of healthcare and my responsibility to others, and I will be able to apply that to my intended career.

What did you learn from city where the internship was located?

Cleveland is a special city thanks to its sense of community. It seems that for such a populated area, interactions between strangers are rooted in respect and Midwestern values. I did not expect that people would so openly care for each other as they do.

What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?

I’ll be able to apply and share real-life applications in class discussions. Some of the progressive innovations and ideas of the Cleveland Clinic can be stretched to healthcare as a whole, which should be useful when it comes to poverty and human dignity.

What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?

With so many different sites and perspectives provided to you in an experience like this, make a point to understand the interdisciplinary approach that we can take to the issues we see. Law has not been an interest of mine, but the Drug Court program highlighted flaws in healthcare I would not have otherwise seen. Go into your internship not only thinking of how you can apply what you learn to your career, but also how you can work with other professionals to achieve your goals with broader implications for the community you serve.

Has this experience influenced your career aspirations? How so?

The flexibility of my internship has allowed me to seek out pharmacists who understand my objectives and can discuss the frustrations they face. This has been invaluable to me in finding my path. In discovering clinical pharmacy and its growing influence on the population’s health, I have found a possible role for me to improve health literacy and opportunity for the underserved.

Describe your experience in a single word.

Rewarding.

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