By Jake Kwon ’19
During the warm summer days out in Kansas City, I have been working atKansas City CARE Health Center, a primary care clinic with three locations near downtown that provides patient-centered care to underserved populations in the area. This clinic was founded in 1971 to provide CARE (Care, Access, Research, and Education) for everyone, regardless of insurance or ability to pay. By working at Kansas City CARE, I was eager to grasp what it meant to administer primary care directly to individuals that have little to no access to adequate healthcare, especially in my residential community.
So far for seven weeks, I have been working at different locations of the clinic as a scribe and medical assistant on Mondays and Tuesdays, scribe for another physician on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and a referrals assistant on Fridays. It’s a lot. In fact, during the first two weeks of the internship, I was at first overwhelmed by the variety of tasks and the number of responsibilities to be learned. However, I became more excited at the same time because I knew that this schedule would give me something new to look forward to each day and provide a more comprehensive understanding what clinical work entails.
I am scribing for Dr. Joel Feder and Dr. Marijen S. Aga, who have been administering family and psychiatric care, respectively, to their patients. During each physician-patient encounter, I take notes of what is discussed regarding symptoms, diagnoses, medications, and plans, and then chart them into the EHR (Electronic Health Record). By working alongside with the physicians during every encounter, I have been able to closely observe the content and subtleties of the exchange that occurs between the patient and the provider. I noticed that a successful encounter is, or at least should be, predicated on the physician’s ability to establish a close and personal connection with the patient. In that way, providers and their patients can cooperate, and physicians can approach their patients’ health concerns from a more holistic perspective. Working in both family and psychiatric care reintroduced me the notion that health isn’t so much about the absence or reduction of symptoms as it is the wellbeing of the patient as a whole.
It’s been very exciting for me to participate in the interactive dynamics with the patients as a medical and referrals assistant. As a medical assistant, I greet and call patients from the waiting room and bring them to the patient room where I measure their vitals (weight, height, blood pressure, etc.), update history data, and perform other tasks needed for the patient before the provider is ready to come in. Additionally, in the referrals office, I make calls to patients for follow-ups or to schedule appointments and arrange referrals requested by physicians to nearby hospitals or practices. I recall the first time working on a referral for a patient that I had already seen while scribing for his provider. At that moment, all my varied experiences in the clinic seemed to finally click together; I realized that I have participated in every step of the clinical process from scheduling appointments, to greeting and rooming patients, to scribing during physician consultation, and finally to sending referrals for these patients.
My time in the clinic thus far has given me a broad and first-hand glimpse into what primary care work entails, regarding both the dynamics that occur inside the patient room and the stages of the entire clinical process. This outside experience has definitely supplemented my education as a pre-medical student, and I am very grateful to my co-workers and the providers there, as wells as the Jaharis Fellowship for making this enlightening experience possible and rewarding!