Planting Hope for Baltimore’s Underserved Residents

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By Colleen McArdle

Colleen McArdle, accelerated ’12 joins Hopkins students from nursing, medicine, and public health in a Day of Service to Baltimore.

I know nursing is hands-on, but I never thought it would literally have me digging in the dirt. While healthcare is certainly an appropriate career choice for me, I’ve learned that landscaping is not in my skill set. This humility was one of many emotions evoked at Johns Hopkins University’s annual Tri-School Day of Service: a day of spring cleaning in the Baltimore community held April 21, 2012.

Organized by the University’s Student Outreach Resource Center (SOURCE), the Day of Service offered students from the schools of nursing, medicine, and public health the opportunity to volunteer at local sites within the community. At Shepherd’s Clinic we planted flowers around the building’s exterior, painted rooms that would function as work stations for future social work volunteers, and assisted in converting medical records from paper to electronic.

Founded in 1991, Shepherd’s Clinic helps thousands of Baltimore residents who are unable to afford commercial health insurance, yet do not qualify for government assistance. The Clinic’s funding relies solely on donations from patients, private donors, foundations, and corporations. All services are volunteered by hundreds of dedicated healthcare professionals, in addition to nursing, medical, and other college students.

Making a difference within the community has always played a huge role in my life, and like so many of my nursing peers, I thrive on making people feel better. Having a background in preventative health and wellness, I began volunteering through JHU’s Community Outreach Program as a program assistant in Shepherd’s Clinic’s Joy Wellness Center (JWC). The JWC offers programs and therapies to promote healthy and practical lifestyle modifications, alleviate chronic symptoms, and prevent disease.

As leader of the service-day Shepherd’s Clinic volunteer cohort, I helped motivate my healthcare colleagues to get out into Baltimore’s 80-degree April sun and spread our JHU altruism into the community. Rather than scalpels and syringes, our tools were shovels and paint brushes. Even if for but a day, these contributions served to help in Shepherd’s facility expansion, thus increasing patient capacity. As an interdisciplinary team, we JHU students were able to join forces to better serve our Baltimore community and ultimately set people on the path to living happier and healthier lives.

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