Angie Wang '23 is breaking down barriers that stand in the way of quality healthcare for underserved patients.
Wang, a molecular biology major from the greater Seattle area, is a member of Health Bridges, a nonprofit organization founded by three Pomona College students in 2015 that is under the Draper Center for Community Partnerships. Students volunteer to be health advocates, working with patients at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center with limited English proficiency. These multilingual students offer free language assistance, serving as in-person interpreters and helping patients sign up for health insurance.
"A majority of our volunteers are interested in working in health care with underserved patients, and the biggest reason is language justice," says Wang. "A lot of them grew up having to translate for their parents at appointments. A lot of these personal experiences bring people to Health Bridges, and they are passionate about getting to know the community more and getting out of the bubble."
Wang, who speaks conversational Mandarin, knows firsthand how important communication is between medical workers and patients — her father is a physician. She spent last summer volunteering at a Seattle nonprofit that offers care coordination for underserved patients, helping them find transportation to clinical visits and fill medications. That's when Wang realized there was a way to expand Health Bridges' offerings, bridging the gap between in-hospital support and long-term social support.
After talking more with her peers and administrators at the Draper Center, Wang came up with the idea for Care Navigators. Student volunteers will conduct social needs screenings in the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center ER, ensuring that patients have access to resources after they are discharged. For those who need further assistance, perhaps with housing or food, Care Navigators will connect them directly with two partner programs: Health Homes and Project Horseshoe Farm.
To make Care Navigators a reality, Wang applied for a Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship.
"Writing my proposal solidified and streamlined my planning for creating a new program," Wang says.
Her proposal resonated with the Strauss Scholarship Foundation, and she received a $15,000 scholarship to get Care Navigators up and running. The funds will be used to train volunteers for a pilot program, as well as cover the costs of annual TB testing, uniforms, and transportation to and from Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.
Wang is grateful for the support of the Strauss Foundation, the Draper Center, her Health Bridges co-coordinators and peers, as well as the volunteers serving alongside her.