Post Classifieds

Panel discusses American healthcare

By Raquel Kallas
On February 13, 2012

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, students, faculty and members of the Boston community were featured in the Social Justice and American Healthcare discussion panel. As part of ‘Deis Impact, Stacey Ha '12, Emily Krainer '12, Dimple Patel '12, Samantha Watson '01 MBA '06 and Vanessa McClinchy of Vanessa McClinchy Consulting shared their experiences with working alongside underserved populations in the healthcare system.

The discussion focused on young adults with cancer, Native Americans, Alaskan Indians, African Americans, HIV/AIDS patients and children with psychiatric disabilities. The overarching theme expressed by all of the panelists was that their work with those in need not only benefitted the needy, but resulted in them finding a passion for service within themselves.

Samantha Watson is a graduate of Brandeis and teaches "Sociology of Disability" in the Heller School. She is also the founder and executive director of the SAMFund, a non-profit organization that helps young adults regain a normal life after cancer. Watson was diagnosed with cancer twice as a young adult, once while she was an undergraduate student at Brandeis. She acknowledged, "I was very fortunate that I had a great support system, not only from my family and friends, but from the Brandeis community." Watson noticed that not all young adult survivors have a similar strong support system, which compelled her to found the SAMFund to help them recover financially, psychologically and socially. "I felt this obligation to pay it forward," Watson said.

Vanessa McClinchy works as a consultant for schools and hospitals to help facilitate what she calls on her website, "the power of human connection." McClinchy discussed her most notable experiences with serving the underserved, describing the injustices and incongruity she has witnessed in healthcare over the years. She recounted the story of an African American man who would not confide his health issues to white doctors because of past occurrences. He had been turned away by multiple doctors and accused of trying to swindle drugs. McClinchy asserted that minorities "have a sense of disconnection [from the system] that fosters the racial disparity in healthcare." She concluded by urging the audience to take action on issues that they are passionate about, stating "we can work with the disadvantaged and find out that it was we who were disadvantaged."

Ha, Krainer and Patel are all seniors at Brandeis who have completed internships with the underprivileged in the field of healthcare. Ha was a recipient of Hiatt's World of Work grant, which allowed her to pursue an unpaid internship in New York City with HIV/AIDS patients. Ha's love of art prompted her to incorporate creativity into her work. She claimed that there is a sense of liberation derived from art, an experience that she thinks should be translated into medicine.

Krainer also completed an internship in New York City, at Columbia University Medical Center's Pediatric Neurology Department. Krainer's focus on children with autism led her to the realization that there are many misconceptions and assumptions about the disorder. She said, "it really opened my eyes to the myths and stigmas associated with autism."

Patel was another recipient of WOW, which enabled her to complete an internship in Colorado with Native American Cancer Research. Patel asserted, "it's about a personal connection when you're working in social justice." She said that the internship forced her to step out of her comfort zone, but her motivation and sense of duty kept her committed. Patel said that she would like to continue on in the area of health policy, because she is very interested in public healthcare disparities. She added "it's so easy to look away because we've been doing that for so long."

Leila Pascual '15 commented "[The event] was great, it's really awesome to take time off from the busy day to sit in on this event to hear from peoples' experiences and the incredible passions that I realize I share with others in this school. The fact that it involved students, faculty, and people outside of Brandeis made it a community effort and a motivator." 

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