Taking Action to Overcome Health Disparities

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Editor’s note: During the summer, Colgate students applied their liberal arts education in a variety of real-world settings, keeping our community posted on their progress. In this post, neuroscience major Danielle Goldbaum ’23 of Warwick, N.Y., describes her work to address healthcare disparities in Massachusetts.

This summer, I had the opportunity to be a public health intern at Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center in Cambridge, Mass. I decided to pursue this path due to my interest in healthcare disparities among minority groups.

Hildebrand is a homeless shelter that provides emergency shelter and stabilization services, as well as permanent housing. They also offer case management, workshops, and other resources. The goal of emergency shelter is to allow families to gain some self-sufficiency. In stabilization shelters, families leave shelters but still receive adequate support to maintain the self-sufficiency they have built. In permanent housing, families can be the most self-sufficient.

As a public health intern at Hildebrand, my main task was to monitor COVID-19 vaccination rates among clients. I spent most of my time contacting families (in various languages) to inquire about their vaccination status. By providing resources and answering questions, I also encouraged unvaccinated clients, in an unbiased manner, to receive a vaccine. I kept track of this data and determined vaccination and response rates among clients in emergency shelters and stabilization sites.

Another large part of my job was to research the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that the organization was compliant. I have learned about cybersecurity through my research of HIPAA. I have also learned about how nonprofits can best serve people with various disabilities.

My experience at Hildebrand was incredible due to the people I worked with, including Gregg Ellenberg, the chief program officer, all of the case managers, and Nadia Foster, the Education Navigation Initiative consultant. Nadia worked closely with the interns and led weekly meetings during which all the interns came together to discuss the projects that we were pursuing. We also often discussed inequality and homelessness in Massachusetts. At these weekly meetings, I gave a COVID report on the data and other pertinent information I gathered throughout the past week.

As a neuroscience major on the pre-med track, becoming a public health intern has allowed me to deviate slightly from my current path to discover another passion — this internship inspired me to pursue the new public health minor at Colgate.

Learn more about summer internship funding opportunities through Career Services at Colgate.