Gold Foundation scholar forges health care bonds with Spanish-speaking community
July 11, 2013
Aklecia McVoy, a rising second-year medical student at the IU School of Medicine, is passionate about helping people who face health disparities, not only in places such as Costa Rica, Mexico and Argentina but also right here in Indiana.
A volunteer with the IU National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health Women’s Wellness on Wheels community outreach program, or WOW, McVoy was recently awarded a summer research fellowship from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to provide health education at the Mexican Consulate in Indianapolis, as well as coordinate health and wellness outreach activities between WOW and the state’s Hispanic population.
“We serve as the mediator between the community and the American health care system for many,” McVoy said. “A lot of the individuals we see don’t have health insurance or see a family doctor, and many times don’t know how to setup an appointment to see a physician. We’re trying to help them overcome those barriers.”
McVoy, who studied Spanish at the University of Delaware, said she wants to use her education to overcome the language barriers that face many physicians today when providing care to the country’s changing population.
Her proposal to forge bonds between Indiana’s Spanish-speaking residents and IU National Center of Excellence in Women's Health was one of only 36 of 140 fellowship applications selected by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation this year. The foundation's mission includes helping students develop strong cultural competencies, address public health needs in underserved communities and acquire the skills required to serve as “patient-centered” physicians.
At the Mexican Consulate, on East Street southeast of downtown Indianapolis, McVoy spends three days a week delivering lectures on topics such as nutrition, wellness and prevention, and maintaining strong cardiovascular health.
Her work with the National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health involves providing clinical care through the WOW bus, a mobile health care clinic that provides basic health assessments to women across the state, especially Indiana’s rural communities. She’s also helped coordinate outreach activities, such as a “Dia de las Madres” picnic for Mother’s Day.
Basic health assessments provided by the WOW bus include a free confidential mini-physical, including height and weight, Body Mass Index, and blood pressure and glucose tests. Pregnancy testing is also available upon request.
Patients are also given surveys to fill out before their assessment, which helps health care providers to tailor the heath and wellness education to their needs.
“This experience has continued to deepen my appreciation for the importance of strong health education and giving back to the community,” said McVoy, who also holds a master in public health from Tulane University in New Orleans, where she also participated in several outreach program following Hurricane Katrina.
Other experiences include providing service abroad in places such as Central and South America. Her ultimate goal is to pursue a residency in obstetrics and gynecology, after which she wants to continue to deliver care to underserved populations both at home and across the globe.
“For me, if I am practicing medicine and I am not helping underserved populations, then it’s pointless,” McVoy said. “I don’t look at it as giving back to the community; I think about it as ‘this is what we should be doing as doctors.’
“It’s more like an obligation to give back,” she said.