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