Jessica is a recently graduated Global Health senior and is extremely interested in learning about health disparities in underserved regions. She has always had a passion for volunteering, and growing up in Chula Vista, she frequently visited Mexico. Despite this, Jessica notes that prior to her field experience with Health Frontiers in Tijuana, her understanding of border health was very limited.
For two quarters, she volunteered with HFiT, a student-run free clinic that is operated by students in UABC and UCSD. Health Frontiers in Tijuana provides free primary care, mental health services, health education, and social services to the marginalized population of Zona Norte, Tijuana.
As an undergraduate student involved with HFiT, her hands-on experience helped teach her about the health issues of the border region by volunteering in the free clinic. On a typical day, she would assist in registering patients, taking vitals, scribing for physicians, organizing the pharmacy, and participating in health education events. She not only learned about health concerns endemic to this border community but also received training on how to best engage in basic patient care and patient interaction.
Jessica notes one of the most notable challenges she faced was interacting with patients. Due to her limited Spanish fluency, she initially lacked the courage to engage in conversation with patients of the clinic. But over time, she developed a larger vocabulary in Spanish and built up the confidence to converse in Spanish.
“I was able to talk to the patients and learn from their diverse experiences”
Jessica also mentions that cooperation was an important aspect of her time with HFiT.
“In the program, the health professionals, the students, and the patients all come from very diverse backgrounds. Many of the services provided and bond built were base on team-work and mutual respect. I witnessed first hand the significance of building a sense of community in a health program.”
After a full day at the clinic, the staff and the students would gather in a huddle and exchange what they learned from the clinic on that day. It was an opportunity for Jessica and her colleagues to reflect on the day's work.
Since concluding with her volunteering at HFiT, Jessica often participates in fundraisers held by Fronteras Saludables. The proceeds from the fundraisers are used to purchase supplies for the HFiT clinic.