Historic Park City Alliance Executive Director Ginger Wicks has an update from this month’s HPCA board meeting.
by FinePrint – The Magazine of Rowland Hall:
For 10 years and counting, Rowland Hall’s Upper School internship program has played a role in shaping the people our world needs.
Established in summer 2013 (then known as Project 12, a senior job shadow program), the summer internship program has exposed more than 150 Rowland Hall sophomores, juniors, and seniors to a variety of careers, helping them build real-world skills, explore professions, and even uncover their passions. And the program’s future continues to look bright: this summer, which marked its 10th anniversary, the program had its highest number of participants to date.
English and publications teacher Dr. Laura Johnson, known as LBJ to students, manages the internship program and sees the many benefits these opportunities provide to Rowland Hall students who are thinking about their future careers and the impact they could have.
Through our internship program, students get exposure to various professions and what going into those professions entails. They see in real time where there are gaps in our systems—medical systems, social systems, governmental systems, and so on—and consider the roles they might play in filling those gaps.—Dr. Laura Johnson, English and publications teacher, internship program manager
And while students often come to Dr. Johnson for help in finding internships that meet their interests or career goals, it can work the other way around too. This was certainly the case for now-senior Diego Ize-Cedillo, who, in spring 2023, was approached by Dr. Johnson about a new opportunity for the Rowland Hall internship program. People’s Health Clinic, a nonprofit medical clinic in Park City that provides high quality, no-cost health care to uninsured residents of Summit and Wasatch Counties, was looking for volunteer medical assistants, and because such a high percentage of the clinic’s patients speak Spanish, they wanted a fluent Spanish speaker. Many Upper School teachers, including Dr. Johnson, thought Diego, who is bilingual as well as emotionally mature, empathetic, and curious, may be the right fit for the role. And although Diego, who comes from a family of medical professionals, hadn’t considered a career in medicine, he was excited about the opportunity—especially because it would allow him to share his language skills in a way that would give back to the Park City community, where he and his family live.
“LBJ brought it to me and it was such a good fit,” said Diego. “I was like, ‘That sounds so cool.’” It would also give him the chance to learn more about People’s Health Clinic, a community resource he was shocked he hadn’t known existed until then. “It showed my ignorance,” he said.
So for three months this summer, Diego rose early to report to People’s Health Clinic at 8 am, where he’d receive his daily assignment. (Diego worked five half days each week, and though his title was volunteer medical assistant, he was paid for his work.) As an intern, Diego provided both administrative support (answering phones, scheduling appointments, notifying patients of lab results) and was trained to assist doctors by taking vitals, completing patients’ medical history questionnaires and depression/anxiety screenings, charting, and acting as a translator during appointments, among other duties. Diego said this work could be nerve-racking at times, given doctors’ seniority and knowledge, and because he knew he was responsible for providing accurate, thorough information to provide the best care to patients. “There’s this sense of accountability—real mistakes have real consequences and can affect people’s health,” he explained.
But even though the role could be intimidating, Diego also understood what an incredible opportunity it offered him to get hands-on experience in a variety of medical specialties, and to be coached by the People’s Health Clinic team. “I had great mentors who showed me how to do everything,” he said.
Beyond the hard medical skills he gained, though, what Diego may be most grateful for from his unexpected internship is how it opened his eyes to the most vulnerable in his community. “People’s Health Clinic is really trying to help a population that sometimes people choose to not see,” said Diego, despite the fact that these community members play vital roles in the tourism industry that Park City is known for. The clinic even goes beyond providing high-quality, essential medical care by helping patients find resources that support their overall well-being.
“What’s really important to the clinic are social questions: Who’s running out of food? Who needs a stable place to live? Who’s struggling with transportation?” said Diego. He saw firsthand how the clinic works to acknowledge and care for all community members as part of health care. “Empathy is essential in order to provide good quality care,” explained Diego in an internship reflection assignment. “I saw how the doctors … took the time to empathize with everyone, asking them about their living situations, food insecurity, and issues with transportation, as well as truly dedicating time and energy to finding the best course of treatment.”
Dr. Johnson said this kind of understanding about one’s ability to make the world a better place within a chosen profession is a strong takeaway for many Rowland Hall interns. “I’ve watched students become fired up to address inequities in nursing care, or to follow in their mentors’ footsteps to create a more representative democracy at the state level,” she said. “On the ground, they see the kinds of people the world needs, often in their mentors; they see the need for more such people; and they see how they can continue and further the kinds of projects they contribute to over one high school summer.”
Dr. Mairi Leining, chief executive officer of People’s Health Clinic and a Rowland Hall parent and trustee, said she’s touched by Diego’s takeaways from his summer at the clinic. “That’s the awareness that comes with working with the vulnerable population, and it speaks to how important it is to work for nonprofits addressing these needs,” she said. Dr. Leining also complimented Diego’s work, calling him an exceptional intern and praising his natural ability to connect with patients, to break down medical conversations for them, and to make them feel comfortable.
“He was responsible, dedicated to the patients and the importance of his role,” she shared. “He was able to adapt to challenging patient situations very quickly and with a maturity that I haven’t seen out of high school students in the past. It wasn’t just his Spanish skills, but his intuition in helping patients and discerning urgent from not urgent—usually you need a lot of clinical experience to know how to react to these situations.”
In turn, Diego is grateful for People’s Health Clinic’s patients and the many lessons they taught him this summer.
“The patients taught me the value of shared humanity and of realizing that we might be different—we might not go to the same schools or interact often—but in the end, everyone is human and has this essential right to health care,” he said. “In a world so polarized, this experience showed me we need to realize that divisions and differences are superficial, and creating the world we want requires a recognized shared humanity—realizing that in the end we are all human and we all have undeniable human rights. In its simplest form: we need to be kind to each other now more than ever.”
Diego expressed his gratitude to all who made this valuable internship experience possible and said he hopes to return to the clinic as a volunteer after graduating in June. Whatever lies ahead, he shared, he knows he’ll carry the experience with him and it will shape his future.
“I want people to know how grateful I am to LBJ and all the mentors at the clinic for such a unique opportunity,” said Diego. “Please, know how grateful I am for my invaluable time at the clinic, and that I left with this sense that there are such good people in this world—people who are so kind and so selfless and dedicated to others. These mentors have inspired my future professional goals. What’s more clear than ever to me is that I want to dedicate my life to doing something that helps people on the ground. I think this will be the key to a fulfilled life, and I look forward to finding out how I will help the world be a better place for everyone.” —Diego Ize-Cedillo, class of 2024
People’s Health Clinic mental health program director Linsey Broadbent discusses the mental health needs of its patient population.
A new behavioral health department was started at the clinic back in January. It provides trauma specific therapy and psychiatric medication for patients. Working closely with nonprofit organizations like the Christian Center of Park City and Holy Cross Ministries, the department helps to provide these critical services for the Spanish-speaking community.
KPCW | By Amber Borowski Johnson
“Food Farmacy Rx” is a new program at the People’s Health Clinic that gives those experiencing food insecurity access to fresh produce.
If food is medicine, it seems appropriate that the People’s Health Clinic’s new program providing “prescriptions” for fresh fruits and vegetables is called “Food Farmacy Rx.”
PHC’s new Director of Volunteer Services and Food Security Lead Helen Nadel explained.
“Our patients have particular issues with accessing fresh food,” said Nadel. “And with this new ‘Food Pharmacy Rx’ program, we are not just enabling our providers to write a literal prescription that’s in their electronic medical record, but also is given to them to have increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”
The “Food Farmacy Rx” program is a partnership between the PHC, The Christian Center of Park City and Summit Community Gardens & EATS.
Nadel said inflation is a contributing factor to the many increased needs in the community. So, how is it determined who will receive these prescriptions?
“We are screening for transportation and housing insecurity,” said Nadel. “And most relevant for this program, is food insecurity. So over the last three months, we have had 53 patients who have screened positive for food insecurity and of those, some are going to be eligible for this ‘Food Farmacy Rx’ program.”
The produce will be distributed through the Christian Center’s 47 mobile pantries that are scattered throughout Summit and Wasatch counties. And this isn’t the past-its-prime food found in the bargain bins at the grocery store.
“So these big bags of beautiful produce that our patients received–they were just thrilled to see how fresh it was, to hear that it was harvested that morning just a couple of miles away,” said Nadel. “And that’s a level of quality that our patient population doesn’t typically have access to because there are lots of barriers to accessing fresh, healthy food. Fresh fruits and vegetables of that quality are so expensive.”
And thanks to PHC and its community partners, this is one prescription that literally provides good food for the soul.
The People’s Health Clinic is Here for the Community
Park City touts picturesque landscapes and a lifestyle that lures folks more effortlessly than the Pied Piper playing his magic flute. With sunny days and cloudless skies, warm and welcoming neighbors, countless recreational activities, and abundant opportunities, it appears to be a utopia for everyone. But unfortunately, for some, every day isn’t always luminous. Those at the top of the peak may be unaware of the hardships in Park City and the need for a free medical clinic. It can be hard to believe, but thousands of people in our community cannot access or afford health care. Fortunately for these indispensable but often unseen residents, People’s Health Clinic exists.
The mission of People’s Health Clinic is to provide high-quality healthcare to the uninsured members of our community. In 2022, the People’s Health Clinic provided medical services to over 3,000 individual patients. It is easy to overlook the invisible population that makes Park City pulse. Immigrants from all over the world work shoulder-to-shoulder in our community.
Longtime resident Jose “Chicho” Santana crossed the border when he was only 12 years old. He would help his mother and father clean the No Name Saloon at 2 am to support his family, just one of the many jobs that he and his family has worked across the community. Like Chicho’s family, most People’s Health Clinic patients have multiple jobs to make ends meet.
The reality is that many community members are undocumented immigrants with no access to healthcare. The majority of People’s Health Clinic patients do not qualify for Medicaid due to residency status. This population is essential to making our resort-based economy function. They bring skills that make our community complete. They are the backbone of our economy. They contribute to our community’s triumph to ensure they provide their families with a better life. People’s Health Clinic wants to ensure that they also get adequate health care. In 1999, concerned citizens organized a one-day community health fair, and over 700 people showed up. It demonstrated the need to take care of those uninsured members of our community. Initially, the clinic provided healthcare from a mobile van. However, in 2009, in partnership with Summit County and Intermountain Health Care, the clinic moved to a permanent home in Round Valley. Today, the clinic sits at 650 Round Valley Drive. They serve patients five days a week.
The clinic has expanded its services and continues to help the community. One critical area of expansion has been mental healthcare. Chicho received care from the People’s Health Clinic for depression when he was still a teenager attending Park City High School. People living on the margins are more susceptible to mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Factors such as poverty, undocumented residency status, labor trafficking, and immigration traumas, combined with health disparities, mandate unique care solutions for this vulnerable population. People’s Health Clinic offers culturally-competent comprehensive care, including medication management and counseling for mental health issues.
The People’s Health Clinic provides high-quality, no-cost healthcare to uninsured residents of Summit and Wasatch Counties in Utah. Chicho now works as the Assistant Clinic Coordinator at People’s Health Clinic. He says, “I know what we are doing here is strengthening the community and helping people like me who can give back in meaningful ways.” Chicho is currently attending the University of Utah to become a physician assistant. People’s Health Clinic relies on unrestricted donations from community members to support the free, non-federally funded, nonprofit clinic. Eight out of ten dollars donated to People’s Health Clinic is spent directly on patient care. By improving the standard of care for the uninsured of our community, People’s Health Clinic is building a stronger community that empowers all members to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
The People’s Health Clinic recently published its first-ever research paper in an international medical journal.
KPCW | By Parker Malatesta
The clinic studied whether undocumented immigrants with diabetes can see improved health outcomes through care at a free, non-federally funded healthcare provider, like the People’s Health Clinic.
The People’s Health Clinic only serves those without health insurance, and most of their clients are undocumented.
The study analyzed average levels of blood sugar in 128 uninsured, undocumented Hispanic residents who were a part of the clinic’s Programa de diabetes, which is a comprehensive diabetes treatment program. Data was gathered between October 2020 and October 2021.
Diabetes is a group of diseases that result in too much sugar in the blood, affecting how bodies turn food into energy.
It can lead to people’s bodies not making enough insulin, or stopping cells from responding to insulin, which over time can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Over 37 million Americans have diabetes, and in the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with the disease has more than doubled, according to the CDC. There is no cure, but healthy eating and an active lifestyle can help.
People’s Health Clinic CEO Dr. Mairi Leining helped author the report, which is unique in that it solely looks at uninsured, undocumented people.
That population faces significant hurdles when it comes to healthcare, such as food insecurity, living below the poverty level, illiteracy, and ineligibility for Affordable Care Act programs and Medicaid.
Leining said another variable adding to difficulties is free time, and the clinic looked into why some patients weren’t making it to their medical appointments.
“We found out it’s because some of them were being labor trafficked, and couldn’t get a day off for 60 days,” Leining said.
“We found that others would get fired if they showed up, or that others were depending on a friend of a friend to get a ride. If there was a snowstorm, everyone needed to make money shoveling snow. So when you start to take into all of these different factors, we really had to design a very flexible clinic where patients decided what day and time would be best for them to return on their schedule.”
She said clinic staff conducted home visits and dropped supplies off at workplaces for those really in a squeeze.
They also worked in partnership with other local nonprofits. Patients screened for food insecurity were referred to the Christian Center’s food bank, and Holy Cross Ministries helped with applications for patient assistance programs (PAPs).
Overall, they found that their program was a success, as they saw a “significant improvement” in average blood sugar levels despite the long list of public health barriers.
Leining said her goal with the research is to make undocumented residents a greater part of medical research.
“The undocumented immigrant population is sparsely evaluated in the research,” Leining said. “They’re not part of the census data. And unless something is measured, it doesn’t exist. And if it doesn’t exist, I can’t get funding for it.”
She also said she hopes to show that improved health outcomes are a real possibility.
“So in the Latinx culture, there’s this concept of fatalismo, like fatalism — once diagnosed with diabetes, you’re not going to get better, you’re going to die from it. There’s nothing anyone can do about it. And so overcoming that with our patients by showing them the reduction in the blood sugar, and our patients feeling much better physically, and the pride that they took in that was very rewarding for us.”
Leining said the paper is the first of many more to come out of the People’s Health Clinic, declaring that it now has a research department.
The diabetes study was published in Acta Diabetologica, Europe’s leading diabetes journal. A link to the full paper can be found here.