“My heart is full of gratitude and, almost, a fire,” Hall said. “I’m grateful I was able to do this but if you think about it, it’s only two semesters and when I go home I want to do more.”
Hall is earning a graduate degree in health and wellness management. She spent the school year under the tutelage of School of Health Sciences assistant professor Traci Alberti and working alongside the Merrimack Valley Area Health Education Center to address both food insecurity and health literacy issues in Lawrence.
“This experience has provided me with supplemental hands-on learning that added to the classroom experience,” Hall said. “Through my fellowship I’ve been able to apply what I learned in the classroom to real-life situations in an underserved community, a population-in-need.”
Hall and Alberti traveled in November with McQuade Library instruction/liaison librarian C.J. Wong, undergraduate Megan Snow ’20, and a representative of the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center to the College of William & Mary in Virginia for instructor certification in Health Education and Literacy (HEAL) using funding from a Community Engagement Provost Innovation Fund Grant.
“Overall, we are providing an opportunity for Ashley and some other students to be exposed and get some hands-on knowledge of social determinants of health, cultural competency, interdisciplinary education, and current healthcare topics, such as food insecurity and health literacy,” Alberti said.
They spent the first semester working with the Lazarus House in Lawrence, offering nutrition education to underserved area residents. For the spring semester they began using HEAL to teach health literacy and health self-management skills at at Notre Dame Education Center-Lawrence to adults for whom English is their second language.
“It is a fantastic opportunity for the college and our students to be able to interact and build collaborative community partnerships,” Alberti said. “We are able to explore some of the healthcare and health education needs of the Lawrence community and simultaneously provide students with the exposure and hands-on experience to build new skill sets they are going to be able to carry forward to their careers.”
For area residents whose native languages range from Spanish to French to Korean and more, learning the English jargon and medical terms is hugely important to interacting with medical professionals. Hall taught them everything from how to read prescription bottles and how to make doctors appointments, to which questions should be directed toward medical professionals.
Even teaching her students the English word for tweezers was part of the lessons.
“They said, ‘tweezers, what is that?” so it’s just getting them used to each thing,” Hall said.
Partial funding for the Twomey fellowship is provided by the Cummings Foundation grant.
The Twomey fellowship is a collaboration with the Merrimack Valley Area Health Education Center offering a full scholarship to plan, develop, implement and evaluate a community based health literacy program.