During my time here at SOS Health Services, I have been learning an incredible amount of information about how a community, volunteer-reliant clinic is run. The SOS Clinic aims to provide healthcare including urgent, primary, and chronic care, as well as women’s healthcare, to uninsured and undocumented members of the Walla Walla community. Patients at SOS are primarily Spanish-speaking and require treatment for a wide-range of chronic illnesses. SOS was founded by a local physician who aspired to provide free care to anyone in need and believed everyone deserves ongoing, quality healthcare. The fundamental mission of SOS is to ensure all people in Walla Walla and College Place have access to healthcare services regardless of citizenship status, race, ethnicity, or the ability to pay for services.
began volunteering here in mid-May under the direction of my then supervisor, Elena Jaffer. Since Elena left SOS at the end of June, the other intern and I have taken over the day-to-day operations of the clinic entirely. Together, we are responsible for running the front desk and patient check-in, scheduling providers, nurses, and interpreters, and setting up clinic hours. We also handle all the patient referrals to other providers and clinics, ordering and maintaining medical supplies, updating and filing patient records and chart, as well as resolving any financial aid issues. When needed, I also help to interpret between English-speaking providers and Spanish-speaking patients. My work here at SOS has been very involved and busy over the last two months but I have learned a great deal about how medical care is provided in the local community. Most of our patients are uninsured and some are undocumented residents. SOS is often the only clinic nearby where they feel comfortable seeking confidential, free healthcare. I am frequently told by our patients that without SOS, they would have nowhere else to go for their healthcare needs. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with the patients and providers here at SOS.
In addition to the tasks above, I am also undertaking a community outreach project. My overall goal is to reach out to the female-identifying patients here at SOS to help them learn about what women’s health services are offered at the clinic. I am also in the process of trying to collaborate with Planned Parenthood and other clinics nearby which might be able to serve SOS patients outside of our hours. Based on my conversations with both providers and patients, it seems there are gaps in information about why annual screenings are necessary for women. To help mend this gap I am assembling information to distribute to our female patients. So far, I have compiled information sheets in both English and Spanish about the necessity of annual mammograms. I have spoken to several of our providers and created a list of possible improvements to women’s health offerings at SOS. I am currently assembling a list of resources for our female patients and corresponding with outside providers so that uninsured and/or undocumented patients will be able to navigate their healthcare needs more easily in our community. In the next month and a half, I hope to finish putting together these resources and information and find a way to effectively distribute these to the wider community.
Experiences like Emma’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff