This year, the IFH Healthcorps team has 17 full time members! Every month we will be profiling one or two so you can get a chance to meet our crew and learn more about their work!
This month, meet Natasha!
Position: Women’s Health Advocate
I grew up in Northern California and studied Public Health at U.C. Berkeley. I have always wanted to try out the big city, and am proud to say that I’m almost in the clear for surviving my first East Coast Winter (almost over, and it really hasn’t been too bad!). I’m a big supporter of Harry Potter, women’s health care (clearly), Tina Fey, peanut butter, funny accents, Beyonce, and now, New York. I’m also a runner, knitter, and can touch my tongue to my nose.
What is your hometown? Napa, California
For those in NYC: What is the best part about living in NYC? What is your favorite place in the city?
Best part of living in NYC hands down is the amazing public transportation. You can be totally spontaneous and get some good reading done all at the same time - talk about double tasking! Not that you asked, but least favorite part? Tiny apartments, tiny kitchen, tiny closet, tiny sidewalk. Every thing in this city is miniature size. Except for the black and white cookies. Those are huge and delicious.
My favorite place in the city is the High Line and also a bakery which I will not share because I don’t want it to get too crowded.
Where do you work and what kind of tasks do you do each day?
I spend half my time working with a non-profit called the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP). They are a teeny tiny organization that believes women’s reproductive health should be part of your primary care. This means, ladies shouldn’t have to go to a giant abortion clinic, or a women’s free clinic, to get the care they need. This should be available from their primary care provider — the same place they go to when their throat hurts. Coming from the liberal hub of the Bay Area, this seems pretty obvious, but RHAP reaches out to family doctors in rural areas of Texas, Illinois, and other states where access to women’s health care is hard to find. I help write a monthly publication about contraceptive best practice which is sent to our network of over 1500 people, including clinicians, educators, and reproductive health advocates. I also help with the collection and analysis of data about the number of IUDs and Implanons inserted at the Institute for Family Health sites. My role is constantly shifting based on deadlines and upcoming conferences, which is great because I’m always learning.
The second part of my job is spent directly with the ladies who need the care. I’m a doula. Now, Wikipedia defines doula as, “a provider or non-medical support to women and families during labour, childbirth, and the postpartume period.” But my role goes beyond this more traditional definition of the doula to include support for all aspects of reproductive care. I chat with and support women who come to the clinic, most often for reproductive health procedures. These women (and sometimes, teenagers) are scared, nervous, or completely fine. But however they’re feeling, for the 10 or 20 incredibly intimate minutes that our lives intersect, I’m their friend.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Through this job, I have met some amazing women, many of whom I wish I could be friends with post-procedure (some have even offered for me to add them on Facebook, although I never have). I’ve met opera singers, police officers, mothers, graphic designers, nannies, comedians, and students. I’ve heard happy stories about celebrity sightings or amazing NY apartment finds. I’ve heard sad stories about siblings in jail and unsatisfying careers. But mostly, I’ve heard dreams about what the future will hold, with an underlying message of how this procedure, whatever it may be - from protecting against unintended pregnancies, to screening for cancer - will allow these women to get where they hope to be.
It’s hard to explain the impact each patient has on my life without sounding cliche or overly dramatic. But working at a community health center whose mission says they will not turn away any person for lack of insurance or funds, I really do interact with all types of people, and you know what? We all have something in common. Although the 19-year-old mother living in a half-way house seems miles away from the 38-year-old architect from England, I find a way to relate to each of my patients as I ease their anxieties and normalize their medical care.
What is the most difficult part of what you do?
Being a doula can be tough, because you always have to be on your game (for instance, as I write this I am incredibly jet lagged, but that is just life in the working world!) and keep that conversation rolling. And sometimes, I just really don’t know what to say to comfort a patient. Also, this job requires a lot of non-verbal communication which I always need to be in tune with. When I walk in to the room, I have to sense whether the patient is nervous or embarrassed, or maybe totally fine, and adjust my mannerisms and conversation topics accordingly. While socializing for your job can be totally fun and interesting, it can also be exhausting, and many evenings I just need to go home and tune out my brain to a good episode of Mad Men.
Why do you enjoy being a healthcorps member?
I love that I get to work with such passionate and smart people, and I love that I get to meet and hear about the interesting lives of patients almost every day. I also love that I get to live in New York. It’s just a win-win all around (I guess the catch is that measly stipend).
What are your future career goals?
I want to be a Family Nurse Practitioner, and have a ceramics studio on the side. And a few chickens too.