Helping an Underserved Community
For the second year in a row, UCF’s School of Social Work’s Chapter of Phi Alpha Honor Society has been selected by its national chapter to receive a Chapter Grant Award for its work at health clinics in Apopka.
The “Apopka clinic” is a collaboration between UCF, the Farmworker Association of Florida and the University of Florida to provide healthcare to underserved individuals and families.
In addition to receiving a cash award for the chapter, members of the student chapter are invited to speak at the 64th Annual Program Meeting of the Council on Social Work Education in Orlando this weekend and to present a poster on their work.
Tracy Wharton, assistant professor of social work, is the IPE (interprofessional education) and clinical outreach behavioral health team lead for the College of Health Professions and Sciences. In 2016, Wharton was contacted by faculty leads in the College of Medicine and the College of Nursing to assist in a new project partnering with the farmworker association.
Social work students, along with UCF students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, College of Medicine, College of Nursing and students from the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy’s Orlando campus, would work together in interdisciplinary teams to treat members of the farmworker community in a temporary (or “pop-up”) health clinic.
Prior to the clinic, Wharton briefed her students on the special needs of the community — many did not speak English, and some would be reluctant to share their history with the students.
And, since there was no way to take appointments for the clinic, Wharton said, “We had no idea what to expect. What if nobody showed up?”
They needn’t have worried. Word spread quickly through the farmworker community that UCF faculty members and students, along with representatives from other organizations, were hosting a clinic.
Enereida Ramos Rodriguez, an MSW student and president of UCF’s Phi Alpha chapter, was among the students to participate.
“It was hot and chaotic,” Rodriguez said. “It brought me back to thinking of my ancestors — my grandfather was a farmworker from Mexico.”
“The clients were very grateful for our time,” Rodriguez recalled. “They thanked us for listening and taking their concerns seriously. It wasn’t always a happy ending, because some people needed more services than we could provide during the clinic, but we were able to provide what we could.”
Wharton told Rodriguez and the other social work students one of the hardest things about working at the clinic is they are not able to see outcomes.
A number of clinics have been held since the first one in 2016, and Rodriguez has continued to participate. She and other social work students meet after every clinic. The students talk about particularly grueling or successful cases; the shared communication helps them process their feelings and support each other, Wharton said.
Faculty Member, Alumna Honored Too
In addition to the recognition that students and faculty will receive at the APM, Eunji Nam, assistant professor of social work, will receive an Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Korean American Social Work Educators Association. In addition, Denisse Lamas, MSW and social work alumna from UCF, will receive the Partners in Advancing International Education Award for the work of the Hispanic Family Counseling organization following the Pulse attack.
“We are so proud of the stellar work of our students and faculty who work each day to improve our community through transformational service and the cutting-edge research they do in the areas of health and mental health,” said Bonnie Yegidis, Director of the School of Social Work. “This ensures that evidence-based practices are available to serve the most needy and at-risk members of the community.”
Faculty, Student Presentations and Workshops
UCF social work faculty members and students also will display posters and give presentations and workshops at the APM.