Krista is a 2012 graduate of the University of Chicago.  She currently works as a Care Coordinator at the IMPACT DC Asthma Clinic at one of Health Leads’ clinical partners, Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C.  As a Care Coordinator, she provides short-term case management for children with a history of poorly controlled asthma.  Krista recently shared some of the most important lessons she learned while working as an Advocate and how the experience changed her career plans.

How did you hear about Health Leads and why did you become an Advocate?

I transferred to the University of Chicago in 2010 and was lucky to hear about Health Leads from one of my classmates. I majored in anthropology and was particularly fascinated by medical anthropology, but had no real experience with healthcare. Health Leads gave me the chance to get more involved in the community, as well as contextualize concepts like “social determinants of health” that I read about in the classroom. As an Advocate at Chicago Family Health Center, I saw the profound effects that social factors, such as access to stable housing and health insurance, had on families. Even more importantly, I was able to work with families to find solutions to these challenges.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a Health Leads Advocate?

Be persistent. Whether it was calling the Salvation Army daily to try to locate a refrigerator or leaving the third follow-up voicemail on a patient’s phone, Health Leads taught me to be determined and creative in finding solutions to patients’ needs. I remain awed by the overwhelming barriers to health that many families face and tried to be as persistent and resourceful as an Advocate as many of the families I worked with had to be on a daily basis.

What makes Health Leads unique?

As an Advocate, I valued working with other students majoring in areas of study very different than mine – from international affairs to economics.  I love that Health Leads brings together Advocates and community partners from a wide array of backgrounds, uniting different stakeholders around the goal of improving patients’ access to resources and ultimately improving their health.

How did the Health Leads experience impact your career plans?

Medicine struck me as immensely powerful in its capacity to make a tangible impact on people’s lives, but I never imagined myself working directly in the healthcare field. I graduated from the University of Chicago in 2012 and started working as a Care Coordinator at the IMPACT DC Asthma Clinic.  I partner with families to help them overcome barriers to following the asthma management plan developed in our clinic. This includes educating families about the importance of long-term follow up with the child’s pediatrician, enrolling patients in prescription-access programs, writing letters to landlords to address asthma triggers in the home, and referring patients to partner organizations like Health Leads. I am immensely grateful to Health Leads for giving me my first real exposure to working in a healthcare setting as well as allowing me the opportunity to observe an alternative to the conventional approach to healthcare, one that is much more successful in addressing a patient’s overall health needs.

Krista is one of over 4,000 Health Leads alumni around the country putting her experiences with Health Leads to work after graduation.  Today, these alumni are pursuing a wide range of careers with a unique perspective on healthcare delivery and the full set of factors that impact patients’ health.  Learn more about IMPACT DC.

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