Physician’s Free Clinic and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Volunteering has always been a major part of both my personal and academic lifestyle. This past summer, I decided to continue my volunteer work through multiple medical establishments in Columbus to further immerse myself in the medical world, while helping my community in any way that I could. To do so, I was a volunteer at the Physician’s Free Clinic in Columbus, which is a clinic offered to those without insurance who cannot afford necessary medical care for themselves and their families. At the Physician’s Free Clinic, I helped with various clerical activities and various tasks to provide a smooth and timely flow in the office so patients could be accommodated the best we could offer. I also translated French for those patients who needed help communicating with the health care professionals and staff of PFC. In addition to this clinic, I also volunteered at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in University Health Services and the Sleep Lab at University Hospital East, doing various clerical tasks to help the staff members throughout the summer. Below are some photos of the clerical work and office duties I did during my volunteering.
Through my STEP experience, I noticed my understanding of myself and my overall perception and view of the world change at different stages in the process. In the beginning, I was nervous because I was placed in situations and environments I had never been in before as a volunteer. Especially at the Physician’s Free Clinic, I was exposed to people and issues that I had never encountered, which ultimately changed how I viewed the world. I became more understanding and empathetic, as I was able to see the reality that many people in the community of Columbus face. Along with this, I was able to gain a better understanding of exactly what I wanted to do with my future career in the medical / dental field, which also provided me with a sense of purpose and motivation to continue to work hard to achieve my goals.
As the summer progressed, I formed relationships with the staff members, my fellow volunteers, and even the patients at each volunteer / clinic location. Below is a picture of a fellow Buckeye undergraduate, Jany, who I met while volunteering at PFC. Jany and I were both considering our futures in the medical field, and it was interesting to bounce ideas of future plans off of each other to broaden our horizons. I was also able to interact with various staff members who had already completed their undergraduate, graduate, or even medical and dental educations, who were all able to give helpful advice on our futures. The other undergraduates that I volunteered with and I are still friends to this day, so it’s safe to say volunteering this summer gave me very valuable friendships I wouldn’t have gained otherwise.
My interactions with patients were more rewarding than I ever could have imagined, as I was able to learn about their backgrounds and viewpoints over the time I spent with them. People at the Physician’s Free Clinic were from many different parts of the world, including South America, Africa, Russia, Europe, and even Asia. I was able to learn about their native countries, languages, and customs, all while helping them get the health care they needed. Over the course of the entire summer, regular patients and I learned more about each other, which made the entire experience more comfortable for them and thus, more rewarding for me. Seeing my work directly affect and benefit those around me was very satisfying, and made it so easy for me to continue volunteering my time and effort all summer.
One activity that was definitely just as unexpected as it was rewarding was translating French for native French speakers in the clinic. I was able to help these patients communicate, which was comforting to them and helped facilitate the flow of the entire clinic as a whole. I was able to brush up on my French language skills, while also providing a helpful environment to those in need at the time. I was glad I was able to help the patients in a unique way to make them feel more comfortable to communicate.
Lastly, I was able to see the clerical work that goes into hospitals, clinics, and doctor / dentist offices by completing large quantities of paperwork at my Ohio State Wexner Medical Center volunteer locations. I was also able to shadow the staff members to view the public health aspect of the Physician’s Free Clinic. There, I saw just how much effort goes into caring for the patients that the volunteer doctors see. I made phone calls to patients to remind them of their future appointments and to take their medications. The aid that the clinic and that the Wexner Medical Center provide to their patients is so much more than I expected, and it was very eye opening.
Through all of these key factors of my volunteer experience, I was able to gain a better understanding of my community of Columbus and all of the different people who belong to it. My eyes were opened to the struggles people face on a daily basis and how they cope with it in a positive way. I became more empathetic and understanding of their problems and I genuinely wanted to help them as much as I could through my volunteer positions. Being exposed to a medical environment all summer made me realize I definitely do want to pursue a career in the medical field, and more specifically, in a profession in dentistry. I feel as motivated as ever to pursue my passion in my career, while continuing to volunteer throughout my self-establishment. These various volunteer positions also solidified my desire and goal to keep volunteering a part of my life into adulthood and even past when I am settled with my career. Serving the public has been so rewarding for me and I plan to continue to affect my community in a positive way to the best of my ability throughout the rest of my life.