Summer Centered: Sarah Curtis '20 Practices Compassionate Care
The health studies minor is examining compassion-based healthcare in two separate internships.
The health industry offers a multitude of pathways for those hoping to enter it. Not content to explore just one option, Sarah Curtis ’20 has taken on two separate internships in the field in the Boston area this summer. Though the biology major is splitting her time between a position at the Tufts Medical Center and another at the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion (CMC) in Cambridge, the two jobs are united by a common interest in revamping health care practices.
“My two internships both revolve around the same topic—introducing models of compassionate care into existing health care models—but approach the topic from two different lenses, so I discover many interesting common threads between the two,” the health studies minor said.
Curtis’ internship at Tufts Medical Center, which is funded by the Center for Career and Professional Advising’s Steven M. Jaharis Pre-Medical Internship, finds her putting the ethics of compassionate care into effect.
“Many of the patients that come into our clinic face insecurity in one or more of the following: income, housing, food access, transportation,” she said. “These patients receive wrap-around services in primary care and social work, to keep them healthy and guide them through bureaucratic hurdles to gain access to money, food, housing, etc.”
At Tufts, Curtis specifically assists both the patients as they receive health care and supports the professionals as they administer it. She also spends time organizing data on the facility for an ongoing research project on “the social determinants of health.”
“I connect patients with urgent food or housing needs to advocacy based-non-profits,” she said. “I also work to make every patient feel comfortable in the clinical setting by chatting with them and helping them organize their questions for the clinicians.”
When she’s not at Tufts, Curtis heads across the river to her other internship, funded by the Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center’s Summer Scholars program, at the Cambridge-based Center for Mindfulness and Compassion. CMC organizes community programs and conducts research on alternative forms of healthcare.
“I clean and synthesize participant data to try to understand the demographics of the people participating in CMC programs, and how each program can be tailored to be more relevant to a wider range of people,” she said.
By working at CMC, Curtis has gained exposure to the practicalities of compassionate care, a concept first introduced to her in the course “Mental Affliction: The Disease of Thought,” taught by Visiting Professor Sue Benston. The rising senior’s interest in the model has only grown since seeing it in practice.
“I think the CMC presents a revolutionary method of care,” she said. “Not just ‘health care,’ but more fundamentally, the CMC promotes care and compassion for the self and between people.”
Inspired by what she’s seen in Boston, Curtis plans to help integrate the concepts she’s been exposed to into the health studies curriculum.
“I am collaborating with Professor Rob Fairman this summer to take what I've learned about compassionate care and contribute to an academic course about the history and practices of mindfulness that Professor Fairman will be teaching in the spring,” she said.
Following her final year at Haverford, Curtis hopes to further develop her newfound passion post-graduation.
“I hope to enter the medical field after I graduate,” she said. “Whether this means going into medical school or community health, I'm not sure yet, but both of these internships have helped me clarify my desire to work with populations that face huge barriers to health.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.