Reflections on Serving The Underserved

by Andrea Tartera, UTHSC PharmD Candidate, Class of 2021

In my opinion, one of the greatest assets to a professional career is a broad network of people which you could contact to accomplish a task beyond your spectrum. This is applicable to many aspects of life from trying to obtain your first job to helping a friend with a given task.
Networking provides you with a powerful toolbox full of resources which you can use to
accomplish tasks greater than yourself. Serving the community sounds like a lofty task, but when broken down into smaller tasks divided between skilled people, it becomes feasible.

Now, to best serve your community, you first need to fully understand its needs. Many people see one small need, throw money at it, and consider it fixed. Providing an underserved patient with a name brand glucose meter and $50 box of test strips does nothing for them when
they have no means to afford test strips, lancets, or a new meter. You have simply given the
patient false hope and health for as long as the test strips last, no further. In my opinion, that is
not true service. Serving the community involves giving patients the tools they need to access the proper healthcare. It is showing that patient how to select affordable meter options and how to use that meter properly. It is referring to that patient by their name and treating them in the best way possible according to their lifestyle and means. It is seeing that patient more than once to check progress and support them.

In order to do this well, one healthcare provider is inadequate. A community is vast with many needs that need to be met which requires many skillsets to best meet those needs. To make a significant impact on community healthcare, you need doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists,
occupational therapists, physical therapists, and many more people all willing to serve with the
same goal and mindset. I believe that this class provides those tools for students. They are able to meet fellow healthcare providers, who they can contact in the future if they see a patient with that specific need, and learn how to analyze a community to best serve them. Fellow healthcare providers with a passion for service are the resources that should be called upon to serve the community.

There are many healthcare resources around Memphis, which healthcare providers should be aware of so that they can recommend them to patients in need. For example, Good Shepherd
pharmacy takes unopened and unused medications from those who no longer need them to be redispensed to patients who otherwise could not afford them. The Mid South Mission of Mercy is a dental clinic held a few times per year at Bellevue Baptist Church providing comprehensive
dental care to anyone. UTHSC also provides discounted dental care for a limited number of
patients at various clinics. Many churches provide mental support classes and groups to provide people with a support system and resources from others who have had the same problem before. Healthcare providers should be aware of these resources so that they can analyze which would be most beneficial for their patient and recommend that source. Community healthcare encompasses understanding the patient’s life holistically so that treatment is both practical and beneficial. Healthcare providers should work together to support their community by understanding its needs and providing healthcare accordingly.