Learning From Community Concerns: Reflections from San Antonio


Bridget Nelson

1st Year MPH Epidemiology Candidate

Hey y’all! Me again. We made it through our week in Texas! Considering that we were only there for a week, I am truly astounded at how much I gained from this experience. We learned how to enter and interact with a community, learned so much about conducting meaningful qualitative public health research, and of course, we couldn’t go to Texas without learning how to line dance. All of these skills that I gained in community engagement will be so valuable to me as I embark on the second year of my MPH and beyond…though my line dancing skills still need a little work. 

As I reflect on this experience, one of the main things that I’ve been thinking about is how the things I learned over the course of our trip will apply to my future goals. As I talked about in my pre-trip blog, my post-MPH plans are to attend physician assistant (PA) school, and I am currently in the midst of the long and stressful process of applying to PA programs…I even had to work on some of my applications in my free time while we were in Texas. That being said, as an aspiring healthcare provider, I was interested to hear so much feedback from the community members that we engaged with about their experiences with their own healthcare providers. I wish I could say we heard positive feedback, but honestly a lot that we heard was more negative, as many community members voiced frustration and disillusionment with their clinicians. They often feel as if their doctors do not have the time to fully listen to and address all of their concerns, leaving them feeling uneducated and confused about the diagnoses they receive and the medications they are prescribed. This lack of quality patient education was a huge factor contributing to the disparities in asthma management that our work was aiming to address. Though hearing these concerns was disheartening to me, it also inspired me to apply what I learned from these community members to my future practice of medicine. By centering patient education in my care, along with creating a space for individuals to really voice all of their concerns and feel heard and acknowledged, I am hopeful that I can make a true difference in shaping my patients’ experiences to be better than those of the community members who voiced their disappointment to us. 

With that being said, I want to extend my utmost gratitude to all of the community members who were willing to share their experiences with us. I was continually astounded by how welcoming every single person was, and it was only through this openness that I was able to learn so much and make these reflections. I can truly say that as I embark on my future career as a PA, I will always be thinking about the things that I learned from the San Antonio community and how I can honor their voices and experiences by providing empathetic and informative care to all of my patients.