Tackling Complex Issues Of Citizenship And Healthcare

March 7, 2019

A group of undergraduates, including seniors Tanlaya Hudson and Aaliyah Turner-Faush (l-r), joined graduate students at Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences for the Citizenship Forum on February 26.

In the atrium of Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, its vice president and dean Deborah Greubel kicked off the latest installment of MBU’s Citizenship Forums on February 26 with a special message.

“Welcome to all the undergraduates, who might have never been here before,” she said to the crowd of students, including all graduate students in occupational therapy (OT), physician assistant studies, and physical therapy (PT) at Murphy Deming. “We hope that you all will work together tonight to understand disparity in healthcare access.”

Citizenship and Healthcare Access is the fifth in the year-long series, spearheaded by MBU’s Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement. The forum explored the intersection of the university’s annual theme with professional concerns facing future healthcare practitioners at MDCHS.

A group of undergraduates, including seniors Tanlaya Hudson and Aaliyah Turner-Faush (l-r), joined graduate students at Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences for the Citizenship Forum on February 26.

Students headed to classrooms and gathered in small groups of 5 to 10 for a three-phase presentation and discussion of a case study involving access to healthcare for a noncitizen. In keeping with Murphy Deming’s interprofessional emphasis, students were encouraged to sit next to a profession that was not their own, so that they could benefit from from different perspectives.

Aaliyah Turner-Faush ’19, who was part of the group of undergraduate students who traveled to MBU’s branch campus, found her biggest takeaway in the event’s focus on collaboration.

“In this experience, I saw people from different backgrounds coming together and combining their minds to figure out the scenario,” she said.

Tanlaya Hudson ’19, who is from Miami and is very aware of realities faced by undocumented immigrants, agreed. “It was great watching how students from different types of programs and curriculum approached this issue, hearing how they would handle it and sharing my personal experiences.”

Two of the student facilitators — Samantha Meyers, a second year PT student, and Danica Mazique, a second-year OT student — revealed the story in several installments of an injured patient seeking care, who had been recently laid off and also did not hold American citizenship.

“We’re not meant to solve the case in this study, but to highlight concerns and things to ponder, and gain some insight as to how citizenship status impacts healthcare” said Meyers.

Participants considered the appropriate way to broach personal topics, the importance of building a patient-therapist relationship, and awareness about assumptions and potential biases, all within the context of providing an effective treatment plan.

“This case was inspired in part by one of my friends,” said Mazique. “These are real issues that people face, and there are many facets; it’s not always what you think or who you think.”

The students also discussed ways to advocate for patients facing complex situations, such as utilizing networks and referrals and connecting them with community services like free clinics or pro bono treatment.

“If supporting these patients is something that’s important to you, it’s a good question to ask when you all interview for a job; to see if the company you want to work for has a system in place to support pro bono visits that you can be a part of,” said Lisa Shoaf, director of the PT program.

A final video broadcast to all the classrooms, created by Deborah Diaz, associate professor of physical therapy, summarized how tenuous access to healthcare can be, especially when factors like immigration status make patients’ lives even more complicated.

“The problem discussed tonight has no easy solutions. Our hope is that you continue this discussion in your classes and with your colleagues from all professions. As you reflect on the challenges of the uninsured, including noncitizens, I challenge you to find methods to advocate for those less fortunate than ourselves,” Diaz said in closing.