Editor’s note: This essay was originally published by UNT Health Science Center news and has been edited for The DO. It has been reposted here with permission.
The challenges many of my students faced were etched on their faces when they arrived at Polytechnic High School each morning.
Some were tired from working a job late in the evening to help support their families. Some showed stress from problems at home. Others were unhealthy from lack of nutrition and preventive health care.
These teenagers were my introduction to Fort Worth, Texas, after I moved in 2011 from upstate New York to teach high school here. And my desire to help them and their families live healthier, fuller lives guided me to study medicine at University of North Texas Health Science Center.
The UNTHSC commitment to producing health care providers who care for underserved patient populations appealed to my sense of service. I’m president of the campus chapter of the Student National Medical Association, a network of students devoted to addressing the needs of underserved communities.
In the fall, leaders of our student group wanted to plan a community health fair in an underserved neighborhood. I remembered the faces of the students I taught and the many obstacles—lack of nearby health care providers, few healthy food options and financial restraints—that prevented them from maintaining good health.
We organized the health fair at the Eugene McCray Community Center in southeast Fort Worth. We recruited partners like John Peter Smith Hospital and the UT Southwestern Moncrief Cancer Institute. Students hit the streets passing out fliers and encouraging families to attend.
More than 50 Health Science Center students volunteered to spend their weekend helping connect people to free health and eye screenings, immunizations, glucose tests, information on free cancer screenings and cancer support services and insurance sign-ups. I was proud of my university.
I originally moved to Fort Worth because, as a teacher, the cost of living was better. Today I feel invested in this community—and so do my classmates. I hope to one day help improve the health and well-being of the same families I once connected with in school.
Then maybe those students will look a little more at peace in the mornings.
Giovanny Destin is a second-year medical student at UNTHSC/TCOM. He is a former school teacher in Fort Worth, who wanted to help his students lead healthier lives. This sense of service drove him to enroll in medical school.