First Cohort Of Franklin Fellows Collect Healthcare Stories
Claire Dinh '16, Anna Catherine Bitners '16, Emily Bamforth (BMC '16), and Carol Lee Diallo '19 are working this spring and summer on a grassroots "storybanking" project to bring awareness to healthcare access inequality.
This semester the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) announced the first cohort of Franklin Fellows, who are partnering with the Stephen Klein Wellness Center (SKWC) of Project H.O.M.E. and the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) on a grassroots "storybanking" project. Claire Dinh '16, Anna Catherine Bitners '16, Emily Bamforth (BMC '16), and first-year affiliate member Carol Lee Diallo '19 were chosen via a rigorous application process for this initial cohort and are now gathering personal stories of healthcare access and housing instability from Medicaid beneficiaries.
Sponsored by the Franklin Square Foundation, these paid fellowships allow students with a passion for health policy and social justice to work directly with community residents to gather written, audio, and video testimonials to share with policymakers and reporters to bring awareness to the issues of inequitable access.
"I think in my classes I’ve had a lot of great conversations and done great readings about the groundings of public health and the ideas and theories, and I have a lot of good theoretical knowledge," says Bitners, a chemistry major and health studies minor who will attend medical school next year. "But I am really interested in seeing what it looks like in action. I want to talk to people who are living this—rather than just read statistics in articles—and see that human connection. I want to figure out what are the bigger policies and changes that can be put in place based on the actual lived realities of the people who are in the healthcare systems."
"I've become very interested in narratives, specifically in health narratives," says Bamforth, an anthropology major and health studies minor. "I think that they’re not only a powerful tool for making change, but I think they can also be very healing in themselves, and that’s what drew me to [this] project."
For Dinh, a pre-med German major who is part of the inaugural class of Haverford's 4+1 bioethics program at Penn and who has earned a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Germany for next year, this project was a natural next step in her healthcare education, which was inspired by a summer spent working in a medical and dental office in an underresourced Los Angeles neighborhood.
"Something that I realized coming out of that experience was that I wanted to devote my life to giving everyone easy and accessible ways to reach quality healthcare," she says. "This [Franklin Fellows project] is one way of exploring that. I’ve also written for the Huffington Post, and I love making films, so storybanking is my way of bridging those interests."
The fellows began gathering stories at the Stephen Klein Wellness Center earlier this semester, and the project will continue for them over the summer. A new fifth fellow will join the storybanking project after the end of the semester: biology major and neuroscience and health studies minor Adedoyin Eisape '17.
"I have seen firsthand the struggle of those who suffer from preventable health issues due to structural inequality at the hands of our health care system," says Eisape, who is looking forward to joining the team. "This is what pulled me to the work of Franklin Fellows. I want to help bring awareness to the issues that some face daily."
SKWC is a North Philadelphia health center that serves currently homeless and formerly homeless people, as well as the local community, offering primary care, psychiatric services, counseling, care coordination, legal and insurance assistance, and much more. It is a component of Project H.O.M.E., a nonprofit that empowers people to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness by offering opportunities related to employment, medical care, and education.
"My hope is that this fellowship will give us a strong sense of how to create ongoing relationships with local organizations that are truly generative for all involved," says Theresa Tensuan, dean of diversity, access, and community engagement and director of the OMA. "I hope we create a circuit and cycle in which students are able to draw upon and hone their skills—as writers, as organizers, as video editors, as EMT responders, just to name some of the capacities of this current cohort—in working in good relation with organizations that can benefit from the kind of energies and enthusiasms that Haverford students bring to the work, informed by our own community values of trust, concern, and respect."