The Geisel School of Medicine continued its celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a panel on Thursday that profiled Upper Valley health care organizations and addressed building trust in the medical community.
Speakers representing the organizations highlighted the under-reported presence of Native American populations in the area, which requires health care providers to be culturally competent.
The intimate discussion, facilitated by Anubhav Kaul GR’13 and pediatrics professor William Boyle, introduced the audience to a variety of services for residents outside of those provided by the College.
Panelists discussed programs in place to help professionals better understand their patients’ circumstances.
Ben Fox, director of addiction recovery center Habit OPCO in Brattleboro, Vt., spoke about his experiences treating recovering heroin addicts.
The clinic offers monthly training for staff, and counselors meet weekly with supervisors to ensure that they are doing their best to meet patients’ needs.
Although the Upper Valley is often considered homogeneous, there are many Native Americans who frequent Habit OPCO.
“There is a large community of people that live in the forest behind my house that just don’t want to be found,” Fox said. “These people are not accounted for in the census.”
In addition to Habit OPCO, five other care organizations were represented.
Kate Piniewski represented the DREAM mentoring program, whose core values include transparency and building a supportive community, she said. The organization focuses on enhancing community relations, and students become mentors for children from underprivileged families in the Upper Valley.
Headrest is an organization that works with people who struggle with addiction and other life crises, according to clinical director Judyth Leavitt. Headrest has three main programs: a 24-hour crisis hotline, a 90-day transitional living program and an outpatient counseling program. The organization focuses on providing support for those in difficult life situations and providing them with health services.
In addition to attending cultural training for staff members, Leavitt said she learned the most about clients’ circumstances from the clients themselves.
Nadee Siriwardana spoke on behalf of the Vermont National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which works with veterans who have medicinally resistant depression.
She emphasized the importance of being honest with patients, especially due to the experimental nature of the organization.
“We always explain side effects and risks, in addition to encouraging veterans to talk openly with their providers,” Siriwardana said.
Obstetrics and gynecology professor Paul Manganiello spoke for the Good Neighbor Health Clinic, a free clinic for patients who do not have medical insurance. Manganiello explained the organization’s history, noting that it formerly partnered with Headrest.
He also mentioned that because of differences in health care policies in Vermont and New Hampshire, the clinic caters to patients from various regions of the Upper Valley.
WISE assistant director Abby Tassel ended the event with a discussion of her organization’s work to provide services to women in the Upper Valley.
The group operates a 24-hour crisis hotline, for which many Dartmouth students volunteer, and provides counseling to clients.
WISE works with women individually, in support groups and through a body-mind group that uses therapeutic horses.
Audience members said that the panel increased their awareness of health care volunteering opportunities in the Upper Valley.
“I thought the panel was super helpful because I’m definitely looking to get involved with Upper Valley communities,” Sarah DeLozier ’15 said. “I’ll be here for sophomore summer, so I’m looking to volunteer in the community during that time.”
The panel, titled “Perspectives from Community Based Organizations: Bridging Disparities and Overcoming Mistrus,” was held in the Geisel School’s Chilcott Auditorium. Events honoring King will continue through January.