Elon-Alamance Health Partners fellows prepare for year of service

The four graduating seniors participated in a signing ceremony in Clohan Theatre to formalize their participation in the service-learning program. The four fellows who have completed their year of service were also recognized.  

Four Elon seniors on Tuesday made official their commitment to spend the next year working to improve the health and wellbeing of Alamance County residents in partnership with local organizations. 

The 2017-18 Elon-Alamance Health Partners fellows, from left, are Maryn Hayward, Vashti Shiwmangal, Chloe Donohoe and Olise Obi, Jr. 
​The university’s third cohort of graduate fellows in the Elon-Alamance Health Partners program participated in a signing ceremoney in Clohan Theatre on Elon’s campus as they prepare to their diplomas at this weekend’s commencement, and in a few weeks, begin their work with area health organizations. 

The ceremony served as a changing of the guard, with each of the 2016-17 fellows concluding their year of service and offering insights into what they have learned in working within community health, along with advice to this year’s fellows for what lies ahead. 

“Through this process and through this program and through this experience, I believe I have truly learned what community is,” said Zach Fisher, a 2016-17 fellow who will be starting medical school this year. 

Each of the new fellows will work with one of four Alamance County agencies: Healthy Alamance, Impact Alamance, the Alamance County Health Department and Alamance Regional Medical Center. Elon University and the four partner agencies are funding the program. 

It’s a challenging job,” said Kathy Colville, director of Community Health for Greensboro, N.C.-based Cone Health, the parent system for Alamance Regional Medical Center. “These young people transition from campus life to a new form of independent adulthood and we throw them right away into real meaningful and consequential work.”

Tom Brinkley, executive director of Elon’s Student Professional Development Center, said the program has been “a huge success” as its third cohort prepares to begin work. “This is a great launching program for students who have an interest in public health,” Brinkley said. “We’re really pleased with the quality and the credentials and the success these students have had. Their involvement on campus and in the community has really played a role in their interest in continuing to make an impact through the Health Partners program.”

This year’s group includes:  

Chloe Donohue (public heatlh studies and environmental studies) will partner with the Alamance County Health Department. Donohue has been actively focused on food security issues during her years at Elon, including working at Loy Farm and with the Campus Kitchen project. She worked as an Urban Gardens intern with the Guilford County Public Health Department in Greensboro, N.C., and for her senior seminar project worked with the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and the Chatham Mills Farmers Market to help raise their public profiles. In her application to become a fellow, Donohue said, that “my experiences abroad and in the U.S. working with diverse populations facing poverty and other challenging life situations have demonstrated to me the parallel experiences of physical and emotional stress in different places in the world, and the important roles that community service organizations play to relieve and reverse these cycles.”

Maryn Hayward (public health studies) will partner with Alamance Regional Medical Center. Hayward has been serving as a community outreach intern at Alamance Regional Medical Center, and will build upon that experience during her year as a fellow working with the hospital. A certified nursing assistant, she has worked in clinical environments and has volunteered with the Girl Scouts as well as with Young Life. A particular interest of Haywards is in how community health partners work to improve the health of children and educate families about maternal and pediatric health, which can impact community health more broadly. “I aspire to be a physician assistant in pediatrics, and in order to be a patient- centered provider, I believe it is necessary to understand the community demographics one might encounter,” Hayward said in her application. “This program will provide me with opportunities to help me gain a better understanding of community health and prepare me for my career as a physician assistant.”

Olise Obi, Jr. (public health studies) will partner with Healthy Alamance. With research experience in the Elon BrainCARE Institute and the Weight Loss Center at the Unviersity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Obi has expanded his knowledge about how environmental factors impact community health. Obi worked with the Comprehensive Rural Health Project in Jamked, India, during January 2016 which offered him an opportunity to observe public health work in a cross-cultural and global setting. “Working with community partners will give me the opportunity to identify forces that are currently preventing the Alamance county community from achieving quality health,” Obi said in his application to the program. 

Vashti Shiwmangal (public health studies) partnered with Impact Alamance. Shiwmangal graduates with plans to become a health care practitioner, and is looking to her year as a fellow with the Health Partners program as an opportunity to build her experience in community health. She has worked with Open Door Clinic of Alamance County, which offers free health care services, and has conducted research on food preferences and child-feeding practices in househoulds that receive nutritional assistance. “I am passionate about improving my social understanding of health through interaction with local residents and professionals, and I am confident that this program will capitalize on my past experiences in Alamance County,” Shiwmangal said in her application to the program.

Elon Provost Steven House and Preston Hammock, president of Alamance Regional Medical Center, celebrated the success that the partnership has already had, both through the impact it is having on community health and on the fellows as they pursue careers and research that’s likely to have long-term impacts. Future plans for the 2016-17 fellows, which along with Fisher include Maggie Bailey, Olivia Murray and Anna Patterson, include medical school and graduate research in the area of public health. 

“I think through I believe that through partnerships like this we can see dramatic change in health care and we can sustain,” Hammock told the fellows. “I think we have evidence of that right here in our community, and our country needs more people like you to take a year and really invest in understanding what that change means.”

Read more information about the Elon-Alamance Health Partners program, one of two service year programs Elon offers.

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