Enjoying a Place Colder than Mars

Beverly Nguyen is from Davis, CA. She majored in Molecular Biology at Princeton because she is interested in public health. Beverly was drawn to this field because she feels that it is the best way for individual actions to have a larger impact. Here she shares a bit about her first few months as a Project 55 Fellow in Chicago with Sinai Community Institute.

Yep, that’s right. Chicago is colder than Mars. Hailing from Northern California, I’ve only had a taste of the winter. My 4 years at Princeton have prepared me a little bit, but Chicago is just crazy cold with the wind factor! Other than the temperature difference, I must admit that learning to “adult” has a steep learning curve. Since I moved here in August, these past few months in Chicago have been great so far! The city itself has been incredibly welcoming, and I was fortunate to experience many festivals in the summer/fall. (Honestly, there are so many that you actually have to prioritize which ones you want to go to.)  I even got to experience the Chicago Cubs win the 2016 World Series after 108 years! The city essentially had a party for itself, and I was able to witness first-hand how baseball was much more than a game to many native Chicagoans. Plus, Princeton Project 55 here coordinates with the University of Chicago, Northwestern, and Harvard fellows, so there are always new people to meet!

Also, working at Sinai Community Institute (SCI), one of 6 major branches of the Sinai Health System, has been incredibly fulfilling. I don’t usually work directly with SCI – in fact, my work is mainly associated with the Sinai Urban Health Institute (SUHI), the research wing of the health system. I mostly work with the epidemiologists, analyzing data from the Sinai Community Survey, which is conducted every 10 years to better understand the community that we serve. I’m also working on a diabetes clinical trial that aims to figure out the most effective intervention methods to help alleviate the diabetes burden within Sinai’s primary service areas. I’ve mainly been involved in writing the protocols for each procedure of the trial, which has allowed me to understand exactly how clinical trials are conducted.

The other side of my job is working with  TR4IM, a partner agency that Sinai Community Institute is involved with. TR4IM is a growing non-profit that refers clients to resources within the North Lawndale community area. Their service fills in major gaps between clients and their available resources. Many community members are unaware of the nearby resources that can assist them, whether it is job employment, accessible health care with mental health services, childcare, and tutoring/mentoring services.

My experience working with TR4IM has been invaluable because I’m directly involved in the growth of a rather small non-profit trying to find its footing within the community.

I’ve learned so much about the infrastructure of non-profits by being directly involved in one. Even though the process of building up an organization can sometimes be tedious, the people within the organization are very passionate, and I’ve learned a lot from working with them. I’ve realized that the sustainability of non-profits comes from the community members, rather than just funding from outside organizations. We have many volunteers, young teens even, that are helping out because they believe the mission is worth their time. These people are incredibly selfless and invested in the organization, and I see them coming together to promote the safety of their community. I’ve found that patience goes very far in non-profit work, and additionally, I’ve learned how these community-driven organizations maintain their drive for the common good.

Overall, my experience has shown me various aspects of healthcare, from research to community-driven initiatives. I have already gotten so much out of my Project 55 Fellowship year, and I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to learn about public health in such a hands-on way.


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