My name is Minting Yu, a first year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. I began as one of the pilot Birmingham Health Links (BHL) fellows during summer of 2013, and continued with this program for 3 years. (Connections4Health was originally names Birmingham Health Links because of its initial, and now flagship, affiliation with the clinic.)
The story begins in the spring semester of my sophomore year. I was captivated by an advertisement in my inbox: a new volunteer program in the Birmingham Free Clinic that aimed to work closely with an underserved population in Pittsburgh and to address the social determinants of health. To me, these phrases in the advertisement were extremely attractive. Not just because I was a pre-med student at that time. There was a more personal reason that I became interested in this program. Growing up in an underserved area in Southern China, my family and I had personally experienced the difficulties and stress of not having enough medical and social resources. I felt especially attracted to opportunities to work with any underserved population.
My three years in BHL has influenced me in many ways. As an undergraduate, it motivated me to choose various sociology and cultural classes to better understand the relationship between social determinants and my patients’ well-being, and to gain a more in-depth view of the culture of my Latino patients. Several patients with incarceration and criminal backgrounds also turned my attention to the criminal justice system in the US and prompted me to add a second major: Administration of Justice. Now, as a medical student and as a part of the Social Determinants Interest Group at the medical school, I am able use the knowledge and experiences I gained though BHL to reach out and assist a broader patient population.
My time volunteering cemented my interest in medicine. Being a fellow allowed me to closely observe how physicians volunteer their time from busy schedules to help underserved patients to ensure that their medical needs are met. I hope that one day I can be part of that physician team, incorporating my experience and knowledge I have gained through volunteering with the BHL to make a positive impact on my patients.