Summer Centered: Harika Dabbara ’20 Practices Holistic Health Care
The biology major is spending her summer interning at a Seattle-area community health center, where she is learning the importance of nutritional and behavioral treatments alongside more traditional ones.
Biology major Harika Dabbara ’20 is learning the totality of what being a holistic healthcare provider truly entails. As a Center for Career and Professional Advising-sponsored Jaharis Pre-Medical Primary Care intern at the community health center Health Point in the Seattle area, she is seeing first-hand all of the ways that medical professionals aid their patients, from providing diagnoses to ensuring their patients know when their appointments are and how to get there.
“My primary day-to-day responsibilities have been working with patients to help them understand their diagnosis and set up proper health care plans,” she said. “This includes helping the patient understand the importance of addressing their diagnosis, explaining what will take place during their visit, or sometimes even just giving them a friendly reminder to schedule an appointment.”
Many of Dabbara’s responsibilities are logistical, but they are helping her learn the primacy of such logistics in the medical field: oftentimes, the largest barriers people face to receiving health care are economic or cultural rather than medical. Because of this, Health Point emphasizes the importance of accessible, holistic healthcare.
“Their approach to health care goes beyond addressing only the biomedical factors in a patient’s life, instead considering also the unique social, cultural, and behavioral factors that play a role in the patient’s health,” said Dabbara. “This is done by encouraging patients to see providers other than their normal primary care provider, such as nutritionists or behavioral health specialists, and also making it convenient to access these providers by making it part of the patient’s visit to the clinic.”
Dabbara is learning that expanding the accessibility and completeness of health care is a long-term and multidimensional process, and her internship gives her the power to help combat some of the barriers to care through conversation, one patient at a time.
“Often times, patients are reluctant to see the behavioral health specialist due to stigmas around mental and behavioral health,” she said. “This helped me learn the importance of certain words and how changing the way that I explain what will happen at the appointment helps the patient become more willing to address their diagnosis.”
As a psychology minor, Dabbara has considered these social and cultural factors in her coursework. Her internship with Health Point has pushed her to further examine how these factors influence the healthcare that patients receive, ultimately placing her in a position to work towards eliminating such cultural barriers and stigmas.
“I have learned how essential it is for a doctor to be aware of and sensitive to a patient’s conditions outside of the biomedical factors afflicting them,” she said. “Although this is something that most of us are aware of, seeing this play out in a clinic setting has really driven it home for me.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.