By Saadia Nawal
“Hola. Yo soy un estudiante que está ayudando hoy.”
In addition to this phrase, I have also learned many different Spanish words such as baño, corazón, camisa, and todos as I volunteer at Medico Family Clinic in Falls Church, VA through the Jaharis Fellowship. The Jaharis Fellowship provides funding which allows premedical students to serve with underserved populations in a primary care clinic. I have been fortunate enough to work with the underserved South Asian and Hispanic population under the mentorship of Dr. Zia.
Through this internship, I was able to learn a lot–not only about how a clinic works, but also about how to treat patients with the respect that they deserve. A majority of patients who come to the walk-in clinic do not have insurance and hold blue-collar jobs. However, I have never seen Dr. Zia ever turn away a patient, no matter their ability to pay or lack of paperwork. He reduces fees and makes exceptions for patients that aren’t able to afford medical care, while also considering the cost of different lab tests before ordering them for diagnosis to make the life of patients easier.
Working in such an environment has also allowed me to notice small details which relate to my Health Studies minor as well. For example, during the first week or last week of the month, not many patients come into the clinic. When I asked why it was like that, a coworker told me because those months are hardest for families because bills are due, etc. As an aspiring physician, I think it’s important to notice details such as this and try to accommodate patients in whatever way possible, something that Dr. Zia does in an exemplary manner.
The clinic is also extremely busy everyday–Dr. Zia sees 20-50 patients a day, with Saturdays being the busiest. In such an environment, I help out wherever I am needed. Some days I am in the lab doing urinalysis, and other days I help in the triage area, taking vitals of patients. I have also learned how to do EKGs, and helped prepare patients for ultrasounds.
Of course, there is also clerical work that needs to be done, which is also extremely important in a private practice. In addition to doing hands-on work, I help in transferring medical information such as lab test results onto the computer and patient registration. During my free time, I have also been able to shadow the different healthcare professionals who work in the clinic, including Dr. Zia, medical assistants, the ultrasound technician, and even the phlebotomist. I also learned how to draw blood in lab, which proved to be an exciting feat for me!
As the days are nearing to the end of my internship, I realize how much I have grown this summer and the tremendous amount of knowledge I learned. I am confident that my experience this summer will help me not only during my time at Haverford, but also in both my personal and professional life in the future.