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Oby: From the campus of Harvard Medical School. This is think research. A podcast devoted to the stories behind clinical research. I'm OBY.

BRENDAN And I'm Brendan. And we are your hosts. Think research is brought to you by Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University's Clinical and Translational Science Center.

Oby: And by NCATS, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Brendan: At the Boston CHANA-CHIP collaborative, the student practice placement program is one component of a community based health needs assessment initiative that allows Public Health and medical students to create strong, collaborative, engagement across community organizations in the Boston area.

On this episode of think research Dr. Rebecca Lee of the Harvard TH chance School of Public Health, welcomes Ayesha Cammaerts and Heine Kim to discuss the project. Ayesha Cammaerts is the senior manager of community programs at Boston Children's Hospital. Heine Kim is the deputy director of planning and development at the mayor's office of food access.

Dr. REBECCA LEE: Ayesha and Heine. Thank you so much for joining us today. I'm eager to be able to share your experiences with our community engagement programs, student practice placement initiative, with our listeners. I'd love to begin by having you briefly share your background as well as, give us a sense of the project you worked on through this initiative. Maybe Ayesha you could go first.

Ayesha Cammaerts: it's such a pleasure to be here today speaking with you and to have an opportunity to talk about this project. My name is Ayesha Cammaerts and I've had a long career in Public Health, starting and doing work as a community health worker in California.

And then, a clinical health educator doing HIV/AIDS work for a few years. Then I came over here and got my MBA and Health Policy at the Heller school. And was able to do some really great work in policy development at Massachusetts Medicaid Mass-Health for a number of years, before I came back into doing community health work.

And have been fortunate to be at Boston Children's Hospital for the last eight years doing community health policy, and health education work, and advocacy. And have been leading the community health needs assessment implementation planning and early childhood work at Boston Children's for the last six years.

And the work that Heine and I have been able to do together, was really a wonderful opportunity to work launching our first community health needs assessment as part of a Boston community Health Collaborative.

And that work really brought together the efforts of community hospitals and Boston teaching hospitals across the city. The Boston Public Health Commission mass league of community health centers, community development corporations, and community residents, to really collectively do our needs assessment for all together.

And Heine was a really critical part of doing that work. Especially, the work for Boston Children's. And the work that we needed to do as a hospital within map.

Oby: Thank you so much. Let's transition. Ayesha, you've hosted a number of students to this student practice placement program. Can you share a bit more about the different roles that students have played in the work of the Office of Community health and Boston Children's Hospital.

Ayesha Cammaerts: Gladly. So we have had students do a number of different things. It's been really critical that we've been working with folks who are in a master's program and really focused on Public Health. And have everything from a broad population health perspective.

As well as, a real interest in digging into the details of research and data. So Heine was, as I said really critical, in the community health needs assessment. And especially, the engagement with some of our satellite communities.

And getting data from them as we included those towns and cities and the staff and folks in those cities into the needs assessment. But we also have a very core part of our work being around community partnerships. And the strategies that we use to inform how we will fund those partnerships, and how we will make community investments.

And we had students help us with the strategic plan around community investment, specifically, for one of our largest collaboration for community health initiatives. Which has six initiatives within it. And is a rather complicated and intense investment program of 54 million over 10 years.

And that student was able to really, help us shape some of the strategy. And the reforming of strategy. After our first three years of investments. So that was a key part of our project. We've also had students work in community communications and marketing, and health and form. And think about how we do communications and marketing.

Dr. REBECCA LEE: Great. Thank you so much for sharing all those different experiences students have had. And Heine, is there anything else that you would want to add about your experience with the placement, with Ayesha and the Office of Community health. Different skills that you learned on the project.

Heiane Kim : Sure. Yeah. I'm happy to. Yeah. It was really great to do this practicum after my first year. I took a class like a year class, SPS two or three specifically, talked about how can we use this this software.

And so, I think, just like doing that and then going immediately into summer, we're seeing it happen in real life is really cool. Because I don't think that happens like every three years. So it just really does work out timeline wise.

But I got to be part of this experience right after I got to study. I think that was really lucky. My role during the summer with split between community engagement in putting that word. And then, some data management work. And I think it was really cool just to learn through observation about how engagement works.

I think one just watching how it facilitated and facilitated well was really helpful for me. Like Ayesha and the other officer, the whole staff. And we had to work with health resources the action. As well and just seeing how the planning that goes into those efforts is really helpful.

I also really appreciated the relationship the Boston Children's like showed around community engagement. I think to nurse our mandatory for hustle's now as I understand. But community engagement for it to really work, you need to have like a long view of it.

And I think we really only work for that hospital because they have a longstanding relationship with community organization. That was a really important takeaway for me as well.

Dr. REBECCA LEE: Wonderful Thanks so much for sharing your perspective on that. Shifting back to Ayesha. I'd love to have an understanding from your perspective, what kind of projects are best suited for graduate students like Heine. What would you advise other folks to be thinking about?

Ayesha Cammaerts: I think that it's really important to think about a project, the why you can define. What the deliverable is for the intern. Right? Whatever their experience is going to be. How are they going to know what they're taking from it.

And to work with the interns, to really make sure that they can also talk about what they want that to look like. So it could be that, for example, my deliverable was a needs assessment. Were the portion of that being around community engagement.

And I needed to do a lot of different things. Before Heine I think, her own delivery what she took away from that. We needed to make it a little more specific. So it was clear that, this is the portion that she can feel like was the thing that she was really most focused on, and leading in.

And so, we tried to really work together in that way. I think it's also really important to set the stage for how you are going to provide your own time and availability and communicate.

Heine and I had consistent meetings where we were meeting on the project. And really going over project points. But we also had a pretty light touch connections. I had a double cubicle. She was in my cube.

We didn't really plan that we'd always be that close. We thought we'd do more remote connection. And of course, the intern that came after her was 100% remote. But there was a lot of consistent connecting. So both interns we were communicating very regularly.

And on the fly, allowing for a lot of flexibility. And I think that really helps the learning process. So that there's always an open door so that if something seems to be falling, there's no sense the intern has and like, Oh. Wait. What happened? I don't really get this right.

And for me, personally, that was very key in having a successful experience in the project, was making sure that I could reach back and forth. And be able to bounce ideas off of the intern, and use them as a real support to the work. So I also think it's important if you're going to host a student to make sure that you can build some of that relationship and confidence early on.

And know what they can offer. So that you can really ask them to bring their thoughts and ideas into the conversation consistently. And Heine was able to do that in a way that was very meaningful for their work both at a small relational level with our team.

And in the experience of working with some of the partners that we were engaging with. But also in the bigger events, and just being able to debrief and say, Oh. Geez how did that go largely. What did you take away from it? It's a really bidirectional learning approach that I think is most beneficial for both parties.

Dr. REBECCA LEE: Great. That's very helpful. And you just said something that I picked up on knowing what the student can bring to the position. And so, that made me think of one of my other questions, which is what kind of skills and experience do you look for in a student? What are the things that you're really looking for?

Ayesha Cammaerts: Well, I think that there's a certain amount of quantitative skills that you look for in a certain amount of experience in a person's resume. Right? Do they have the ability to understand data, use basic data platforms as well as, adapt their understanding and general knowledge of research.

So that they can perhaps, dive into a new data platform and do different research or approach data differently. I think analysis is a key part of this type of work. Certainly, it is for a needs assessment. But even in strategic planning there's qualitative data that has to be reviewed.

And you need to make sure that people can really engage with the system as well. But then, there's also some real soft skills around. Being able to be comfortable. And being autonomous. And being able to plan something and follow through with it.

And being able to clearly communicate. And be open about when there are things that are challenging, and when there are things that are going well. Asking for feedback. And those communication skills become really important, especially when you really have ultimately, three to six month time period.

You're trying to get work done together. That communication becomes really valuable and necessary. And so, I think it's a balance of those two things. I would say too, as far as the harder skills. I mean I think life experience is a key part, that I also look at someone's resume.

If they have been studying but haven't had a lot of job experience. What does that look like. What does that mean for the project I'm going to want to work with them on. And how are we going to be able to engage in the work.

Dr. REBECCA LEE: So I know that you're about to post another student. Hopefully, come this spring or summer. And I'm really interested in hearing from you about how you think other folks, other community partners, can prepare for hosting students. This was their first time. How could they prepare to bring a student on board?

Ayesha Cammaerts: Well, I think you want to make sure that you think about, again, that deliverable. What is the work that you want to get done? And really, to be very clear about, trying to develop a project within the context of your larger work that the intern can complete.

And if it's hard to construct that, then even speaking about it as a specific number of experiences that you want to make sure. So figuring out how to quantify the work in a way, that becomes very clear, I think is very important.

I think it's also important to help make sure that you're not just giving administrative tasks to an intern. That's not to diminish the value of students' experiences with administrative tasks. There can be relational work in that too.

But to make sure that it's something where, if they're going to do that, then they get to partially lead the meeting that they've been planning for. That they get to engage with these folks as partners. And maybe do data gathering with them. Or interviews for to inform their understanding of the larger work, that you do as an organization.

So figuring out ways to give them that context, and give them ownership it's a lot of what you need support on, as administrative. So that there can be a balance. And then, I think do you have to think really concretely about like, what's your physical space? What's your technology? With some of those very logistical things.

Sometimes we forget them or it gets difficult to plan for them if you are part of a larger organization with more bureaucratic steps. So just making sure you have all of those things in place. And you're clear about how you're managing that becomes very important to you on a day to day.

Oby: Thank you so much. So I'm going to shift gears, and hear a little bit more from you Heine. As you look back on your experience, at the Office of Community health, I'd love to hear how you think it contributed to your educational experience at Harvard Cannes.

Heiane Kim : Yeah. I think it really again brought to life a lot of the things I learned in class. So your classes at CF two, three into four. Yeah. The experience really, just highlighted the lessons in those classes. I think for me, I just had to learn things multiple times.

So it was like doing it once, my first year. And then, doing it in real life in practice in the summer and reflecting on it throughout the practicum presentation. And then, I also paid for those classes the year after. And I think just finally after those three iterations, I was like, Oh. I think I understand.

So I think it's just like how a learning curve say things of building experiences on knowledge from different sources. I think was really helpful to seeing the words impact. This is really great. I think also, in the SSVF we talk a lot about health equity.

I think we study it from the academic perspective. But also, just talk about how to integrate it into the work. So it's really great to see how health equity was played out in Boston Children's work. So I think obviously, is something that we all think is really important integrate into the work.

But how integrated is, it's a hard thing to do. And so was great to see the hospital integrate it not only in one section of the Chernoff, or just like we approach the work with an equity lens. And I thought that was really important.

How equity also played out was just like bringing the right people to the table. Making sure that there's multiple opportunities for engagement, not just through like one community. That was really important. I think reporting back regularly, is something that the hospital does really well.

And I think that's an important part of equity like sharing-- Is not only just receiving information from the community but sharing that information with others. Having this conversation. So I think that was also a really important way of how my experience with the Office is informed my academic work, was just thinking about what equity looks like in practice, and ways that we can grow that in the professional here.

Dr. REBECCA LEE: Great. Wonderful. And so, you recently started as the Deputy Director at the mayor's office of food access. Congratulations. I'm wondering how do you think this service learning experience prepares you for that position, and your future career?

Heiane Kim : Yeah. Thank you. It's been really great to start with the Office. I think something that's been really helpful is that, being part of the children's tonight process and the ability to not, showed how things can be done in this formalized way. And I think I need to look to that part of the standard for other assets are involved in the future.

No matter where I am goal setting and like I said, will be part of any initiative. So it was really good to be part of that. I think also, being part of the Office of community Health showed what decision making looks like, when you have skin in the game.

When in class, I was thinking of your goals in setting these metrics. It felt really different than watching the hospital do it. Because when you actually, have finances invested in these goals. And you actually, have the good portables and the other people you have to be accountable to.

It makes the conversation really different. And I think it makes the conversation honest. One of my first big projects up in the mayor's office was, taking an assessment from the community. And then, using the assessment update our existing agenda.

And so, I really felt like-- Yeah. I think understanding how important engagement is in that process. And just giving folks the decision table. And then, learning how to be accountable for these things that we're setting, are all things I saw in the summer with the children.

I'm glad I was able to see it, because I think it made my transition a little bit easier. I think I'm still learning but, definitely, that was like a window that's helped me today.

Dr. REBECCA LEE: Great. Thank you so much for sharing that. And just to wrap us up. I think my final question is, what advice would you give to students who are interested in participating in service projects like this?

Heiane Kim : Yeah. Well, I really hope that other incidents continue to be interested in servicing products. That definitely was an important part of my experience at Cannes. Yeah. And I think the products look really different based on what folks are interested in.

I really appreciate what you said about, having really outlined task, and deliverables. And I think that's something really helpful for us to think about as well. About what you can bring to the table. And what they're hoping to learn. Because I think they can reshape the experience.

I think something I wish I had is, to really engage with a little bit more over my summer, I was investing a lot more time and building relationships. I feel like I just really stuck into finishing the past. And really doing the work.

But I think, a lot of that work is really, building those relationships with folks, especially. I ended up being in Boston long term. I didn't expect that. And now interacting with people over the summer, which is really great.

Yeah. And then, I would just encourage folks to do homework before leaving. Rebecca, I really did these this activity that you asked me to do in your classes two or three to four to go to three meetings.

And I think your set questions to get people to think about who they're and why they're there. And what role they play in the framework, is actually, really helpful. And has been helpful for me, for all my commuting. Just to understand not only work is being done, but what the networks are. Yeah.

And how folks fit into the work. And I think that can help connect a lot of the different meetings together. And help you get a deeper understanding of the work on a larger scale.

Dr. REBECCA LEE: Thank you so much. I feel like I knew what your project was all about. But I learned a lot more about the processes behind. What it was like to make this a successful project today in our conversation. So thank you both for sharing so much about your experience, and what can make a student practice placement work.

It's great to hear about students supporting the community health assessments that are happening in our city. Because that is such a huge part of our Public Health work. So thanks so much for sharing all of your experiences today.

And I hope our listeners really enjoyed learning from you both.

Brendan: Thank you for listening. If you've enjoyed this podcast, please rate us on iTunes. And help us spread the word about the amazing research taking place across the Harvard community.

Oby: To learn more about the guests on this episode, visit our website Catalyst.Harvard.EDU/thinkresearch.