This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at Care Ring – a wonderful nonprofit healthcare organization in downtown Charlotte. Each year, the Levine Scholars program at UNC Charlotte sends one student to Care Ring for approximately five weeks to get a solid glimpse into the nonprofit realm and what Care Ring does for the Charlotte community. I must say, after my about twenty-five days of working at the organization, Care Ring is a crucial puzzle piece in solving the healthcare dilemma that faces Charlotte (and the entire state of North Carolina).
During my first week or so, I was hesitant about doing things – am I doing this right? Could I be doing it better? What if they don’t like me? I have never worked a “9:00-5:00” job prior to this internship, so I was pretty overwhelmed by diving headfirst into it all. Nonetheless, I quickly acclimated to the environment and soon realized everyone was so welcoming, encouraging, and helpful.
My first project consisted of identifying a food desert between I-77, Billy Graham Parkway, and Wilkinson Boulevard; essentially, in this triangle, fresh food was pretty scarce. Using Google Maps, I mapped out all of the clinic and Physicians Reach Out (PRO) patients that resided within or around this area. Knowing someone lives in a food desert alone can reveal so much information about that individual – why they are not eating well, why they are gaining weight, why fruits and vegetables and other fresh produce is not a part of their diet, and more.
Next, I delved into the Physicians Reach Out realm of Care Ring. In PRO, specialty care is available at no cost (in addition to primary care, hospital admission, and lab testing), which extends to dentistry. Unfortunately, the dentistry side of PRO is currently facing challenges in rallying dentists and eliminating the waitlist for PRO patients. My next project involved creating a dental patient survey, a “Share Your Story” form for patients who have seen dentists, and a phone script to use when contacting patients about the survey. A vital part of Care Ring is utilizing patient stories, which are the most impactful tools in getting people, doctors, funders, and more to understand the importance of Care Ring’s work. However, there is a small hole in the dental part. As a result, I created these forms to specifically target dental patients that used PRO to aid in hearing how dentists have changed the lives of our patients – and, hopefully, these can be used in getting non-participating dentists to join PRO.
Another instrumental part about Care Ring is the bilingual staff members. The amount of Spanish-speaking Charlotteans has quickly increased over the years (in addition to many other languages other than English). These members of our community need somewhere to go for their health – and Care Ring is that place for many. As a result, Care Ring’s need for translators or bilingual physicians has also risen. For another project of mine, I contacted all of the offices of the physicians that Care Ring uses to see if the physician themselves speak another language. Unfortunately, many of the physicians do not speak another language – although, if he/she does, it was likely Spanish or an Asian-originating language, as I discovered. Fortunately, however, many of the places can provide their own interpreter for patients and, if they cannot, then Care Ring can. Needless to say, Care Ring is not only a place for the underserved English speakers of Charlotte, but those of any race, ethnicity, or language.
In addition to these projects, I did two more – one on durable medical equipment companies (in seeing if any companies in the area provides charity care for those who are uninsured) and one on hospital admissions (in analyzing data about the most common diagnoses on patients who go to the hospital and other similar data). I was also able to attend several meetings with many of the staff: one on MedLink (an overarching organization that brings together all of the healthcare resources in the area), one on Nurse-Family Partnership and its potential in expansion, and several others. On my last day at Care Ring, I was given the opportunity to shadow Dr. Sailer in Care Ring’s Low-Cost Clinic, which gave me a fascinating view of how clinics operate, the clients they serve, and the many health issues that people face. One of my favorite parts of the internship included going to a community fair called National Night Out. I attended with the community liaison, who is also the Affordable Care Act Navigator for Care Ring. Essentially, we setup a table which information on the programs in Care Ring and the services they provide. About 300-400 people in the community came to the event to survey the tables and see what resources are available for them. I really enjoyed this event because I was able to directly interact with the client base, as well as inform people of the aid that is available.
All in all, my experience at Care Ring was a great one. I care about Care Ring because they care about the healthcare for those who do not have adequate access to healthcare services. I care about Care Ring because they provide services via their clinic to those who fill “the gap” in healthcare. I care about Care Ring because they care about first-time mothers, babies, and families in ensuring children are raised the best they can be. But, most of all, I care about Care Ring simply because they care – and that can go a long way.
Tyler Rapp is a Levine Scholar at UNC Charlotte (Class of 2019). During the summer of 2016 Tyler interned with Care Ring.
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