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New Mick Huppert Community Health Scholarships awarded to UMass Chan students

Projects focus on health care access, patient advocacy and youth mentorship

By Kaylee Pugliese

UMass Chan Medical School Communications

April 19, 2022
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Mick Huppert, MPH

Six projects organized by students in the T.H. Chan School of Medicine and Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing at UMass Chan Medical School have received Mick Huppert Community Health Scholar Awards for 2022. Named in honor of late UMass Chan faculty member Mick Huppert, MPH, the award is given to students interested in family medicine who embrace community health practice and are committed to patient advocacy. 

This year’s projects address issues related to health care access, patient advocacy and youth mentorship.

Confronting telehealth equity on Outer Cape Cod
Recipients: Medical students Zachary Strecker, Alana Prinos, Megan McNeil and Nicole Loranger
Adviser: Andy Lowe, instructor in family medicine & community health and chief strategy officer at Outer Cape Health Services

Teleheath has been a lifeline for health care delivery, especially during the pandemic. But a lack of access to this service poses a barrier to care and has the potential to exacerbate health care disparities. The Outer Cape has a significant community of people over 65, a demographic less likely to have the digital literacy required for video telehealth.

Strecker, Prinos, McNeil and Loranger plan to assess disparities in telehealth access and build a clinical assessment tool that Outer Cape Health Services can use to evaluate telehealth access barriers. They also plan to advocate for medical insurance to cover audio-only telehealth appointments at state, regional and national levels.

"We’re all really excited about this project and so grateful to have received the funding to help make it a reality. The Cape is a pretty special community, and many of us spent much of our childhood growing up there, so to have the opportunity to deepen our connection to the area and give something back is a really meaningful experience,” the group said.

Advocacy Allies
Recipients: Medical students Jordan Dudley and Kassandra Jean-Marie
Adviser: Sarah Nicole Forrester, PhD, assistant professor of population & quantitative health sciences

Advocacy Allies is a medical student-run service project for the local Black or indigenous people of color (BIPOC) community aiming to pair medical students of color with patients of color to serve as patient advocates at medical appointments. These students will accompany patients to their appointments, help them keep track of medical conditions and medications, and assist them with patient education and empowerment. The target population includes young mothers experiencing homelessness along with those who have recently immigrated to the United States.

Dudley and Jean-Marie hope that the advocacy training will provide medical students with a more robust understanding of social determinants of health in family medicine.

“As future Black physicians, we are passionate about bridging health care disparities,” Dudley said. “We are hopeful that our project will help bring awareness to and rectify disparities in our own community. The Huppert award will be vital to growing our project and empowering community members in the health care space.”

Digital care navigation for people with opioid use disorder—Road to Care
Recipients: Medical student Maia Fefer and nursing student Rachel Odillia
Adviser: Kavita Babu, MD, professor of emergency medicine

Although emergency department visits for near-fatal overdoses and emergency medical calls for opioid-related complaints declined, Worcester County continued to be deeply impacted by the opioid crisis in 2020, with 280 opioid-associated deaths. With fewer emergency visits, clinicians haven’t had as many opportunities to offer and provide resources from a hospital setting to patients with opioid use disorder. The Road to Care program is a mobile service that provides substance use treatment and primary care services to individuals experiencing homelessness and substance use disorders in Greater Worcester County.

“I am excited to use the support of the Mick Huppert award committee and the scholarship money to assess the barriers the population experiencing homelessness and opioid use disorder has when using digital resources and hopefully mitigate this digital divide that stands in the way of their care and recovery,” Fefer said.

Welcoming resettled Afghan families to Worcester through youth mentorship and resource connecting
Recipients: Medical students Vanessa Avalone and Nathan Yingling
Adviser: Payal Modi, MD, MPH, assistant professor of emergency medicine

The City of Worcester has welcomed Liberian, Somali, Vietnamese, Iraqi, Burmese and, most recently, about 250 Afghanistan refugees. The Worcester Refugee Assistance Project, or WRAP, has partnered with students at UMass Chan Medical School for tutoring, youth group mentoring and English language skills.

Avalone and Yingling plan to recruit a cohort of UMass Chan students to engage with families, build relationships with them and offer social support.

“I feel privileged to be a part of the amazing work that WRAP is doing in Worcester, and I am excited to get more UMass Chan students involved in that work,” Yingling said.

A student-run Care Navigation Program at the Worcester Asylum Clinic
Recipients: Medical students Read Allen and Sabine Shaughnessy
Adviser: Payal Modi, MD, MPH, assistant professor of emergency medicine

Asylum seekers may undergo a forensic medical evaluation that assesses the degree to which the asylum seeker’s physical and psychological scars are consistent with the narrative the asylee provided for their court case. The Worcester Asylum Clinic acts as a liaison between immigration lawyers and trained medical evaluators, coordinates the execution of forensic medical evaluations and provides trained nursing and medical students to scribe and assist the evaluations. This project notes the importance of understanding the difference between asylum seekers and refugees because the differing legal statuses affect the resources that are available to each.

Allen and Shaughnessy plan to create a community of volunteers who can ensure that comprehensive, trauma-informed, sustainable, longitudinal support is delivered to clients with needs outside of their asylum evaluation.

“It’s a huge honor to receive the Mick Huppert award,” Allen said. “We believe the Care Navigation Program will transform how we are able to serve clients and will allow for a more humanistic approach to the incredibly important human rights work taking place at the asylum clinic.”

A path to pediatric health care in Worcester: Assessing enrollment success in Massachusetts Children’s Health Insurance Program and primary care provider attainment after a Worcester Free Care Collaborative referral
Recipients: Medical students Danielle Heims-Waldron and Addison Ward and nursing student David Runyan
Adviser: Arvin Garg, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics

Every year, more than 1,000 children visit the Worcester Free Care Collaborative (WFCC) medical programs for care, many of whom need physical exams and vaccinations to meet public school entry requirements. While all children under the age of 18 are entitled to health insurance in Massachusetts, Heims-Waldron, Runyan and Ward say many of the children seen through the WFCC program do not have insurance or an established primary care provider. The UMass Chan students will conduct a study to evaluate the effectiveness of referral services by measuring whether parents have been able to access insurance six months after a visit.

“We all choose to work with WFCC because we believe that health care is a human right and that regardless of background or circumstance, everyone deserves quality medical care without concern for cost,” the group said. “We are honored to receive this award because it gives us the opportunity to understand and learn from the experiences of past WFCC pediatric patients. We hope our work will identify ways to improve access to insurance and primary care for children in the Worcester area. We believe this study is an important step toward improving pediatric care.”

Related UMass Chan news stories:
UMMS students receive Mick Huppert Community Health Scholar Awards to address community health
Students use Huppert Community Health Scholar Award to further Cape Cod health services project
Medical students named inaugural Mick Huppert Community Health Scholars