I initially applied for DukeEngage Detroit because I was seeking a summer experience that would reinforce the direction of my character and professional growth. DukeEngage Detroit offered the opportunity to learn more about social impact consulting, a field that combines my personal and academic interests. I quickly realized that this program offered much more than skill development. By directly engaging with Detroit community members in the non-profit space, I acquired a new lens through which to examine social issues.
While working for MedHealth, a regional collaboration that connects MedTech innovators to resources and health systems, I learned about the inner workings of non-profit endeavors. Although we were brought in to help the company migrate to a new data analytics platform, my partner and I took on a wide a variety of projects on a weekly basis. This aspect of the summer not only taught me the importance of flexibility but also made me realize that I can step up to the plate when asked to complete tasks outside of my comfort zone. The projects I was assigned allowed me to apply lessons and skills from classroom settings to the real world. The nature of my tasks taught me a new approach to thinking about goals and achievements in work settings. I learned that while certain tasks may appear minor in the moment, they are vital pieces of a larger puzzle.
As a social sciences major, I was nervous about the prospect of working for a medical technology non-profit. However, I began to see that my lack of medical knowledge would not be a barrier. In fact, it allowed me to approach my work and meetings with fresh eyes, My background in public policy, economics, and history, proved to be useful in analyzing the big picture challenges facing the MedTech community. Stacey Frankovich, my MedHealth supervisor, exposed me to the challenges facing the medical device hub in Michigan. Despite the abundance of ideas to improve the quality of care for Michigan residents, the fragmented healthcare system poses huge obstacle for progress. MedHealth works to bridge the gaps between entrepreneurs, research centers, and major healthcare providers to generate growth in the region. In addition, they recognize how social determinants of health factor into the progress they hope to achieve.The the problems facing the health sector are not up to medical innovators to solve alone; the entire system, policy-makers, non-profits, private investors, and community stakeholders, must collaborate to address critical gaps in care. Moreover, individual health and well-being forms for the foundation for functional and thriving systems.
Though the virtual nature of this DukeEngage program brought its challenges, it added an interesting dimension to my experience. Working remotely enabled me to constantly relate my meetings and projects to my personal life. In the middle of the summer I traveled to Puerto Rico to see my extended family. Despite the fact that Puerto Rico is a Spanish-speaking Caribbean island, its history of resiliency mirror that of Detroit. After work, I planned to admire the island’s tropical beauty, but found myself saddened by dilapidated infrastructure and constant headlines about crime and governmental corruption. A conversation with Paul Riser changed my perspective on the Puerto Rican struggle. I gained insights on how to promote social and economic growth while also preserving important cultural values. Paul Riser explained how his personal connection to the city of Detroit drives his social impact work and allows him to pursue projects based on actual residents’ needs. I realized in this moment that the lessons I was learning at MedHealth could be applied to my own community.
Ultimately, DukeEngage Detroit pushed me outside of comfort zone and encouraged me to think more critically about my capacity to promote change in my communities. As a result of working for MedHealth and collaborating with my DukeEngage peers, I have become amore effective and compassionate worker and citizen of the world. I hope to translate my newly acquired skillset and outlook to future life experiences, always remembering this unique summer when I do so :)