Bridging the Gaps

MSS students participate in community health internships


Since 1999 the GSSWSR has participated in the “Bridging the Gaps” Community Health Internship Program (CHIP). The seven week program links the training of health and social service professionals with the provision of services to underserved communities. In addition to the field assignments, students meet weekly with their academic preceptors and participate in weekly training sessions where community members and health professionals help them build skills in working with diverse populations.

The five Philadelphia academic health centers: Drexel University, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Temple University, Thomas Jefferson University, and the University of Pennsylvania, are the collaborative partners whose students from the disciplines of medicine, nursing, dentistry, occupational health and social work are assigned to a diverse range of community sites. Bryn Mawr students participate with the Thomas Jefferson University group whose coordinator is Maria Hervada-Page, MSS.

2006: Barbara Sierocki

Barbara Sierocki was a Bridging the Gaps (BTG) intern in the summer of 2006.  She reports:  "I worked at the main branch of Philadelphia Senior Center (PSC) in downtown Philadelphia.  The mission of PSC is to assist older adults in meeting their basic needs and to enhance the quality of their lives.  I was paired with an occupational therapy student intern from Jefferson University.  We successfully planned and led a series of weekly 'Mind Aerobics' workshops for over two hundred seniors at PSC and Casa Farnese, a modern senior hi-rise apartment building adjacent to PSC. As a team we distributed over 1,500 Pennsylvania Farmer's Market Nutritional Vouchers to seniors at PSC, to residents in a nearby modern senior high-rise apartment building, and to seniors from Philadelphia 's Asian community at The Coffee Cup, 10th & Locusts Streets.  We also planned and organized two health information fairs held at PSC and distributed health information to seniors about signs, symptoms, diagnosis, screening, and doctor-patient communication.

In addition I planned and organized two health-related programs for seniors at PSC. The first, “Healthy Relationships for Seniors,” involved discussions with seniors about HIV/AIDS, while the second program, “Five Wishes,” discussed advanced directives and living wills.  I had several opportunities to assist seniors as an “In House Counselor.”  Seniors having problems with PACE, Medicare, or other personal issues and needs would sign-up for an appointment or could stop-in.  I developed a genuine connection and sense of belonging while working with the supportive staff and the seniors.  From this experience I learned the importance of listening carefully to senior voices as they graciously shared their stories with me.  In addition, I gained first-hand knowledge about how seniors in a multicultural community navigate and adapt to life changes in their golden years. "

2004: Kate Gontarek

As a second year Social Service Management student, Kate participated in CHIP as an opportunity to explore work in another area of human services. After graduation from Fairfield College in Connecticut in 2001 she spent two years as a volunteer with the Mercy Volunteer Corps. In her first year Kate was a teacher's aide for a Chicago Catholic school with a predominantly Mexican population. She was then a chaplain's assistant in a long term care facility in Portland, OR. Her first year field placement for GSSWSR was with the Outreach Program of the Unitarian-Universalist Home in the northwest section of Philadelphia, and her second year placement was with a home health and hospice program.

Her CHIP internship placement was with Chestnut Place, a member-based, member-directed day program for adults with persistent mental illness. Kate worked with a team of three other students who are earning degrees in nursing, dentistry and medicine. The team worked with the members of Chestnut Place to develop a wellness program that focused diabetes, hypertension, exercise, and oral health.

2003: Howell, Radis, and Rogers

In the summer of 2003, three Bryn Mawr students participated in CHIP, and each was paired with a medical student at their respective sites.

Under the auspices of the Maternity Care Coalition, Megan Howell was assigned to the Germantown MoMobile which provides education and referral services to pregnant women and new mothers. She conducted home visits and provided advocacy services as well as organized a parent outreach meeting to educate new mothers about the importance of immunizations. After graduation from Swarthmore College Megan worked as an associate producer for a non-profit documentary film company and later for “Fresh Air”, an NPR program. A Clinical Social Work student whose first year placement was with the Palliative Care Service of the Fox Chase Cancer Center , Megan took a year's leave of absence to accompany her husband a Fulbright Scholar in philosophy to Belgium. She is now back to complete her degree, doing her internship at the College Counseling Center.

Brie Radis's CHIP internship was at Philadelphia Fight, an HIV clinic where the students developed and administered a survey to determine why so few women were using the services of the center. As part of their goal to increase awareness and use of the clinic, the students conducted a focus group and visited community sites. A graduate of Earlham College who was a AmeriCorpsVista volunteer in Portland, Oregon, before enrolling at Bryn Mawr, Brie's first year field placement was with a Family Service Agency where she did community outreach and case management. Brie earned a dual degree in Clinical Social Work and Law and Social Policy, completing her second year field placement with Interim House, a residential and outpatient treatment facility for women with addictions.

Mercy Hospice, a residential program for women in recovery, was the site for Emily Rogers. Her team conducted health and wellness workshops and designed a curriculum that included topics on physical and mental health care, exercise, nutrition and chronic health conditions. Emily, a Vassar graduate, was a VISTA volunteer in her hometown of Austin, TX. There she worked in a small health clinic for uninsured and under-insured youth, learning about the barriers that prevent people from gaining access to health care. A Policy, Practice and Advocacy student, Emily's first year field placement was with Planned Parenthood; her second was with Episcopal Community Services

Over the years the Bryn Mawr students have felt that they bring a unique perspective to the CHIP program compared to students from the other health care professions. Through their social work studies they come with an appreciation of the importance of diversity and cultural competence in working with clients and communities. Their understanding of social policy and service delivery also gives them a solid foundation from which to conduct their work.