By Bill Gentry, Jan Gillis (’07) and Kelley Freund (’07)
Virginia Beach, VA
Pre-physician assistant program
Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center volunteer
Anna Young (’14) is one of those people that signs up for everything. The junior is a Student Ambassador, involved with Campus Crusade, Relay for Life and National Society for Collegiate Scholars.
Coming to JMU as a freshman, the Huber Learning Community was just another one of those things she decided to apply for, without really thinking too much about how it might change her future.
But it did.
“It was just this spontaneous thing that turned into something that marked my Madison Experience,” says Young.
Chosen along with 19 other students interested in a career in professional health, Young walked into her first meeting with the group and knew right away she was in the right place. “I felt like I was in a room full of people that would change the world; it made me excited,” says Young.
The Huber Learning Community allowed Young and her classmates not only to gain experience early on outside the classroom, but to also bring their ﬁndings back into the class to share and reﬂect. Young says she learned a lot about the social determinants of health: the economic and social conditions — and their distribution among the population — that inﬂuence differences in health status. These are risk factors found in a person’s living and working conditions, rather than individual factors (such as behavioral risk factors or genetics) that inﬂuence the risk for disease or injury. “We talked about a lot of these issues that aren’t recognized. Not a lot of people think like that, especially as a freshman. It put me a step ahead.”
Young’s service-learning project assignment was the Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center, a program of in JMU’s Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services. AHEC, whose mission is to strengthen community health, seeks solutions to address health disparities and barriers to health services in the local community. The organization partners with academic and community agencies to develop and support health services for those whose health status is most vulnerable. Young met AHEC program director Susannah Lepley at an informational meeting for the Huber Learning Community. Young grew up speaking Spanish (her mother is Spanish and Young used to visit Spain every summer), and impressed Lepley with her knowledge of the language. Lepley knew she would be a good fit with AHEC’s medical interpreter service, which ensures community residents have access to clear communication with their health care provider.
'Without the Huber Learning Community, I might never have gotten involved with AHEC. My service-learning has helped me be a more well-rounded person and helped me earn a degree to change the world.'
Young started off shadowing medical interpreters at Rockingham Memorial Hospital and helping train new interpreters for AHEC. “I learned a lot about cultural competency and the incredible amount of service AHEC provides for the immigrant and refugee population here in Harrisonburg,” says Young.
Young quickly moved from shadower into the spotlight. “She’s such a hard worker,” says Lepley. “She’ll do something until it gets done and I know I can always count on her. She’s always enthusiastic and does an amazing job. I’ve seen her confidence progress and seen how serious she is about being an interpreter.”
This past January, she completed the medical interpreter training (something that is usually completed by professionals already working in the med ﬁeld) and started working for AHEC at RMH. She helps facilitate communication between a non-English speaking patient and their health care provider.
“I translate anything and everything they say,” says Young. “I guess you could say I work behind the scenes and on the stage of the whole mission AHEC tries to provide. It’s really cool to see every element that goes into providing such a great service. It really feeds my passion for helping others.”
That passion was put to use in another JMU organization, Service Learning Without Borders. The group puts together JMU teams to go on medical missions organized by International Service Learning. Young went to Panama City to help with health needs.
With all she’s involved in, there’s always a struggle for work-life balance. “Sometimes it’s hard,” Young says, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s made me a more well-rounded person.”
Read the stories of other Huber students: