HealthCorps Members Start New Term
Every year, Mendocino Community Health Clinic (MCHC) brings Community HealthCorps to the area to reach out to vulnerable populations and improve health in the community. This year Lucy Shapiro and Jessica Ohland have joined the MCHC team.
Community HealthCorps is a national service program similar to the international program, Peace Corps. HealthCorps Navigators serve 1700 hours over the course of about ten months.
The HealthCorps mission is to improve health care access and enhance workforce development for community health centers through national service programs (communityhealthcorps.org/about-us.cfm). As such, a big focus of the MCHC program is a school-based dental outreach program called SMILES. The SMILES team is made up of HealthCorps members and licensed MCHC dental employees who go to local classrooms in Lake and Mendocino Counties to educate students about the importance of dental hygiene. The age-appropriate education focuses on the importance of brushing and the effect of sugar on teeth.
In spring, Community HealthCorps Navigators will shift their attention from the SMILES program to the patient-centered health home (PCHH) initiative. MCHC is working toward national recognition as a pioneering clinic in this new approach that encourages patients to play a more central role decisions about their health care. The PCHH works with patients to create care plans to address both acute and chronic problems. It is a proactive model that helps assure that patients get the education and screenings they need to treat health issues before they reach a crisis point.
This year’s Community HealthCorps Navigators have different backgrounds, but a similar dedication to community health. Shapiro is returning for her second year of Community HealthCorps this year. Originally from the Washington DC suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, Shapiro fell in love with Mendocino County. “I had never been in a place where people recognize you and you can really make a difference. I feel like I can be part of important changes here,” she said.
Shapiro attended college in Colorado, but before finishing felt she needed a little real-world experience to guide decisions about her future. Communtiy HealthCorps provided just that. “I want to do something with nutrition and education, but I’m not sure exactly what,” she said. She’ll be applying to colleges to begin again next fall, and plans to attend graduate school after that.
Ohland is homegrown, more or less. Although she was born in South Africa, she is a lawful permanent resident who has lived in Mendocino County for the past ten years. She recently graduated from Sonoma State with a bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology after first attending Mendocino College. Her husband works at the Savings Bank of Mendocino County in Ukiah, so when she finished school, she applied for a position at MCHC. When the MCHC interviewer saw Ohland’s impressive resume, she recommended Ohland apply for the HealthCorps position and the rest is history. Because she says she “doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life on the [laboratory] bench,” Ohland plans to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in Public Health after her HealthCorps term.