Sunday, April 30, 2017

See you later

April community service hours: 9 hours
Spring Semester total community service hours: 44 hours
2016-2017 Academic year total community service hours: 75 hours

And with that, the Spring semester has concluded, meaning our MS program has concluded. It is pretty incredible to think that this much time has already passed. I never imagined enjoying this experience as much as I have. I anticipated moving 12 hours from North Carolina to New Orleans with the sole goal to perform well academically and be on my way to reapply with a stronger application. Yet, reflecting now, I know I immediately did not approach this experience that way. Ultimately, I need to thank the faculty, staff, my classmates and the city of New Orleans generally for welcoming me with open arms and allowing me to have this life-changing, unforgettable experience. Thank you.

Though the semester has ended, I will continue working with NAMI New Orleans on a weekly basis until I leave New Orleans in June. This past month, I continued help making calls to local businesses, including golf courses this month, for donation requests for upcoming fundraisers in addition to my normal tasks such as answering the NAMI Helpline. It has been an incredible year working with NAMI and helping individuals living with mental illnesses within the community. I will certainly find ways to continue working with NAMI when I move back to North Carolina. Thank you NAMI New Orleans for this opportunity.

I will see those of you who stayed around in a few weeks (and between then, we are friends) to walk at commencement. My days are numbered in New Orleans as I am leaving the first weekend of June, but it'll be a see you later and not a goodbye.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Marching On

Do I really only have a little over two months remaining in New Orleans? It has been an incredible year living in this city and March continued on that trend. I am going to Pensacola Beach for the second time this month this upcoming weekend. Sandwiched between the two trips included a lot of studying for our NBME Pharmacology Shelf final, which I felt pretty good about. It is pretty incredible the amount of content we have covered this year and I have heard from previous students that a lot certainly sticks and is helpful in future medical school courses. With class winding down I have had more time to commit to studying for the MCAT as well as to continuing my volunteer work with NAMI New Orleans. This month, my work included ensuring their bingo materials were all set for a fundraiser benefit night. More importantly, I was tasked with calling local businesses for donation requests for silent auctions and raffles for upcoming fundraisers NAMI is running to maintain the free services they offer to the New Orleans community. NAMI has a bowling benefit night in July and the next second line walk is already coming up again in September. It is amazing how gracious many of these businesses are with donations. The community is incredibly interconnected and willing to support NAMI in its mission to provide services for individuals living with mental illness. I have continued assisting with the helpline and this remains a unique opportunity to interact with community members and assist them in accessing mental health resources that NAMI and the city in general offers.

March hours - 11
Cumulative hours - 35

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mardi Gras, NAMI, and Red Cross

Wow! So this is the full Mardi Gras effect? Living on the parade route has been nice for accessibility to the fun but also a little hard to take a break from it. All in all, it is very easy to see why the community enjoys this time of year and this has been a very memorable experience for my time in New Orleans for this program.

In regards to my community service during February, I have continued to work with NAMI on a weekly basis around our class schedule. This month I continued answering the Helpline, intermittently helping callers with receiving resources for housing information primarily, though most often transferring calls around the office. When the phone was not ringing much, I developed several informational sheets that may come in handy for future callers and visitors. The topics these documents covered included Medicare coverage of psychiatric services, Oxford House locations (for patients living with substance abuse disorders), and most interestingly the Operation Angel program in Covington. The Operation Angel program is a partnership between Covington Police Department and New Orleans Mission, which has a Giving Hope retreat center in Lacombe. The program allows for individuals with substance abuse disorders to independently seek assistance from the Covington Police Department without any fear of arrest, crime charges, or time in jail. This program seems to highlight the growing understanding of substance abuse as a mental illness rather than a crime. I will be interested to see if such a program will expand to New Orleans.

In addition to my work with NAMI, I also assisted the Red Cross with disaster assessment the Saturday after the tornados that occurred in East New Orleans. Anuj, Sami, Victor and I rode in a car provided by the Red Cross through the primary neighborhood that was affected. The sector we were given had very little damage, but literally across the main street we were assigned were some of the worst affected families. Roofs were entirely removed, cars flipped over, and trees fallen over those houses with roofs still intact. You really had to feel for these people who didn't know that morning that their lives would significantly change later that day due to something that had no capability to control. And yet as we drove through, community members were working to rebuild, and I think that says a lot about the resilience of this city and its people.

February Community Service Hours - 18
Total Hours - 24

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Year, NAMI

My return to New Orleans January was temporarily delayed as I woke up at 5AM on January 3rd to find my flight on an economy airline had been cancelled and not rescheduled. I in turn had to find the next available flight out of North Carolina in order to return to my studies on time, which was not cheap. I guess that is the risk you take with traveling on an economy airline around the holidays. It has been great to get back in the swing of things. Within the classroom, the neurology and psychiatry blocks have been my favorite two blocks we have covered since July, certainly significantly due to my interest in mental health care. On that note, I have continued working with NAMI New Orleans and assisting with the NAMI Helpline. My experiences with callers continues to lead me to identify aspects of life that I take for granted such as guaranteed housing and access to healthcare. It is a bit frustrating to hear the struggles of community members who are doing all they can to improve their situations, but it is also very rewarding to be on the other end of the phone line and to provide callers with assistance and resources in all the ways NAMI has identified to be beneficial to this subgroup of the community living with mental illness. In addition to answering calls, I also had the opportunity to take part in thanking community members who had donated to NAMI the previous year by handwriting individual letters to all donors. Their donations continue to allow the organization to provide many of the wonderful services, which are significantly impactful and beneficial in the day-to-day lives of New Orleans community members living with mental illness.

January Community Service Hours - 6 hours

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

NAMI Helpline

November Community Service Hours - 8 hours

Cumulative Fall 2016 Community Service Hours - 22 hours

***UPDATED as of 12/14/16***
December Community Service Hours - 9 hours

Cumulative Fall 2016 Community Service Hours - 31 hours

Strangely, it felt great to return to New Orleans after Thanksgiving break. Not strange because I expected to be unexcited or sad to return. It was strange because I have only lived in New Orleans for a few months. I enjoyed being home in North Carolina, seeing family, and hanging out with old friends. But, by the end of the week away, I was ready to head back to the Crescent City. Over the last few months, beyond just getting into a routine, I have truly built great relationships within the Pharmacology program and in my community involvement. My work with NAMI New Orleans this fall has been a huge part of that. 

Early in November, I met with the Helpline Coordinator and other volunteers interested in assisting NAMI with their Helpline. During this orientation, we learned about the purpose of the Helpline, that being to assist callers in reaching appropriate resources such contacts for finding housing, establishing a provider or counselor, or joining a support group. We received a guidebook that covers the majority of the information we will likely need to assist callers. I was unaware of all the ways in which NAMI helps individuals living with mental illness in the New Orleans community. 

Just before Thanksgiving break, I was able to volunteer individually my first day. I am still learning the basics of the help line, the hardest of which may be just answering the telephone and transferring calls; however, I am really excited about the potential of this volunteer experience to help an incredibly underserved group within the New Orleans community. During my first day, I learned that NAMI resources are generally for individuals living with mental illness; however, the Helpline often receives calls from family members or friends of individuals living with dementia and developmental disorders. Despite NAMI resources being directed towards individuals living with mental illness, Helpline volunteers can assist these callers with reaching the appropriate supportive organizations or identifying overlapping resources that may be helpful, such as contacts for housing, obtaining health insurance, or establishing a provider. In addition to that, I worked on cleaning the formatting of the housing resources document that the Helpline volunteers send via email to any callers seeking to establish affordable housing with available support for those living with mental illness. I look forward to sharing my ongoing experiences with NAMI and New Orleans in general.

Monday, October 31, 2016


Although I had been helping out NAMI here and there to this point in the semester by putting together folders for team captains for their large fundraiser, NAMIWalks New Orleans, and cleaning up after a kickoff event, October was finally here. NAMIWalks was here. The fundraiser took place on Saturday, October 14th. I woke up bright and early to help out with set-up of the event. This second line fundraiser took place in Audubon Park. We set-up tables and tents for all of the corporate sponsors who donated to NAMI and were to have display tables for their products or organizations at the event. Walkers and other NAMI supporters began showing up around 9AM or 10AM. The amount of support from the community for NAMI in creating a stigma free community regarding mental health conditions was extraordinary. The second line was lead by the New Birth Brass Band and the Pussyfooters dance/marching group (pictured below). The event included a stroll around the park, jazz music, red beans and rice and jambalaya, and the opportunity to interact with other community members dedicated to increasing awareness and changing stigma associated with mental health conditions. I helped clean-up after the event by helping other volunteers take down the numerous tables and tent we had set up earlier in the morning. The most inspiring takeaway from the event was not just the atmosphere at the event but also learning that the New Orleans community had very much so been supportive of NAMI in its efforts to assist its community as displayed by over $100,000 being raised through this fundraiser. In November, I will continue my work with NAMI by beginning to volunteer with the helpline. The NAMI helpline is available to the New Orleans community to provide community members with assistance related to mental health education and treatment or support resources available to them or their family members. I look forward to continuing to work with NAMI, building relationships with both other volunteers and community members in need of assistance in reaching resources for mental health conditions. 

October Community Service Hours - 8 hours

Cumulative Fall 2016 Community Service Hours - 14 hours

Friday, September 30, 2016

Settling In

As September ends, I definitely feel myself settling into New Orleans. My community work with NAMI New Orleans has certainly made me feel like I am becoming a part of this community. As I previously mentioned, NAMI’s big fundraiser for this fall, NAMIWalks New Orleans, is a second line, which will be October 15th. This month we had a preliminary meeting with NAMI leadership to discuss what opportunities there are for volunteers at the event. We were provided maps of the event, descriptions of volunteer opportunities, and associated upcoming fundraisers in community restaurants and bars. It feels amazing to connect with others in the community who share a similar interest in promoting mental health awareness and decreasing stigma. I will be helping primarily with the set-up of the event bright and early but I anticipate helping with a variety of other opportunities such as serving New Orleans’ famous red beans and rice to event attendees or encouraging and providing water to walkers during the event. I have helped publicize the event by putting up posters at my apartment complex and at my favorite study spot in New Orleans, Zotz cafĂ©. I am contacting the appropriate Tulane university personnel to see if I can be approved to put up posters in university buildings, such as Hutchinson Memorial where we often have class. Also, I will be attending a few fundraising events leading up to the event in the coming two weeks to continue helping NAMI New Orleans hopefully reach their goal of raising $160,000, which will serve as funds for many of their great support programs provided throughout the year.

September Community Service Hours – 2 hours

Cumulative Fall 2016 Community Service Hours – 6 hours