Champion of the Month – Jennifer Plotkin

The SOURCE Champion of the Month of May is Jennifer Plotkin.

Jennifer Plotkin .jpgJennifer is a 1st year medical student at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and has been involved in the SOURCE HIV Counseling and Testing Program at the Harriet Lane Clinic (HLC). Jennifer is also a Coordinator for the Community Adolescent Sex Education Program (CASE). By working in the community, she has gained a sense of belonging and understanding.

“I believe that an integral aspect of serving a community is being a part of it. As a physician, I hope to connect deeply to my patients and leverage that connection to help them improve their health. By being involved in service in the community, I am getting to know the character and needs of the place I will practice medicine in. Baltimore is such an amazing community to be a part of!”

The experience has allowed her to grow professionally and personally.

“Through HIV Counseling and Testing and CASE, I have learned how to build trust with teenagers to have honest conversations about sexual health. Medicine involves having difficult conversations with patients around sensitive topics. Through these activities, I have grown skills that are applicable to many aspects of medical counseling. “

The experience has also had a few bumps in the road, but nothing that Jennifer couldn’t overcome with patience and persistence.

“One challenge I faced was creating a safe environment for my class of 8th grade boys to talk about sexual health. At first, our students were understandably shy and giddy; this was a topic that they may have never discussed with their peers. My co-teachers and I worked with the students to set ground rules about how our classroom would run. We set a tone of taking students’ questions seriously and using correct terminology. After a few sessions, we built enough trust such that we could have thorough conversations about sexual health.“

Jennifer says that community service is important and rewarding, and says that students should find an area that makes them excited to help the community.

“I would tell prospective students to seek out community service opportunities that they are exceptionally passionate about. I believe that people are best utilized when they are doing service they find meaningful. So whatever the cause that lights a fire in you, find a corresponding community-identified need, and pursue that.”

To learn more about Jennifer, visit this link. To become involved with SOURCE, click the link!

Champion of the Month – Braveen Ragunanthan

BraveenBraveen is a current MPH student at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a Medical Student at Virginia Commonwealth University.  His time at Hopkins and his work through SOURCE has continued to influence the way he approaches situations.

“My coursework at Hopkins has allowed me to want to approach my work with the highest level of evidence-based rigor as possible, but surprisingly, it has also allowed me to be more sensitive to the nuisances between theory & practice as I strike the balance in my work.”

Balance is always something that needs to be maintained, and like other students, Braveen has to make that balance work, and says it comes down to weighing what is important.

“Per time, it is really just priorities. What do we prioritize in our lives?”

Braveen said that those positive impacts of community engagement come from interacting with others, learning from others, and reflecting on those experiences. He also feels like community engagement has continued to shape him as a person and as a future physician.

“As an aspiring pediatrician, the work that I have been fortunate to be engaged with today will drastically shape my future practice. I believe strongly that health happens in all places – truly beyond just the clinic or hospital. The schools and community are exactly where we work to make kids healthy, and I am happy to witness this up close.”

Community engagement has left a positive impact on Braveen in many ways other than his professional aspirations.

“I am learning many lessons, making wonderful friends, and feeling holistic fulfillment.”

To learn more about Braveen, visit this link. To become involved with SOURCE, visit the link!

Champion of the Month – Joshua Prudent

josh prudent.png

SOURCE Champion of the Month for March, 2016, was Joshua Prudent. Joshua works with a number of different service-based student groups and Baltimore Community-Based Organizations (CBO), and serves in many different roles throughout those organizations. From the Charm City Clinic, to the Wolfe Street Academy, when he isn’t in class at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, he is finding ways to serve with the Baltimore community.

Having the opportunity to participate in service-learning opportunities has allowed Joshua to have real world experiences applying his class work to community-specific needs. The skills he has learned and continues to sharpen are invaluable when it comes to practicing medicine, but are also helpful in a broad way and are even helping to shape his professional goals.

“I get to practice many procedures and skills, largely around vitals and interviewing. My interest in pediatrics as a future career has also risen over time, thanks to my service with the great children of Baltimore.”

Finding time to work with the community can be hard, especially for a medical student. Between classes and homework, you might never know when you’re available.

“Since my schedule isn’t consistent week-to-week, I sought out opportunities to serve that can be flexible and adjusted to my workload level at any given point. Sadly, I had to turn down great service projects that were too stringent around timing.”

Timing isn’t always a problem, he added, and many organizations will work with the time that you can provide.

“…there are plenty of great groups for someone with an inconsistent schedule.”

Everyone can help make a difference in their community, and there are many ways to get involved. For those thinking about community service, he says don’t think you won’t be able to make a difference.

“If you’re questioning the impact of your service, talk to those that you serve. You’ll be surprised.”

To learn more about Joshua and other SOURCE Champions of the Month, click here.

Girls on the Run

“Girls on the Run is so much fun!” This is the cheer I came up with for my team to end each practice. My name is Zwena Killikelly and I am a 7th grader at Hampstead Hill Academy and participated in the Living Classroom’s Patterson Park Girls on the Run program last fall and now this spring! Girls on the Run is 12 week program designed for girls to build their confidence, create meaningful connections and care for themselves and others. I liked all the activities that we did to learn how to trust my teammates and coaches.

I also learned how to run and pace myself. All of the coaches in Girls on the Run helped with running, they taught me a lot and watched me grow through the first day of practice until the 5k. The 5k was not long at all. There were a lot of people there, but I only focused on getting to the finish line. When I was close to the finish line I sprinted down the hill and made it!

When I finished, I stopped myself and searched for my teammates. I was so tired when I got home, but I had to eat something. I ate pizza then I went to sleep. Even though you might get tired you still have fun. That was the main reason I joined- to have fun.

By: Zwena Killikelly

The Patterson Park team had some AMAZING volunteers who served as coaches/mentors/running buddies – and almost all of them came via SOURCE through a specific opportunity posting on the Weekly Service Scoop or had heard about Living Classroom’s Programs because of SOURCE.

You can find more information about the Living Classrooms Foundation and the Girls on the Run Program at

Baltimore’s Permanent Place in My Learning

Rachel Koh working with Blue Water Baltimore at the 2015 Spring Tri-School Day of Service.
Rachel Koh working with Blue Water Baltimore at the 2015 Spring Tri-School Day of Service.

by Rachel Koh

As a transplant to this city, friends and family back home in California often ask what it is like to live in Baltimore. Before answering, I try to gauge which Baltimore they are really asking about. Is it the one they’ve seen in The Wire? Or Hopkins brochures? Or, more recently, the one burning on the news? Whatever notions they have of Baltimore, they usually don’t expect me to tell them about beautiful parks or great restaurants, a flourishing arts scene or a strong network of community organizers.

When the unrest in April shone a spotlight on the city, their queries intensified and I changed my usual response a bit. I had previously made a conscious to effort to emphasize the vibrant, charming Baltimore I had experienced in my time here. I thought that by focusing on the fun and light aspects of the city, I could create a fuller picture that wasn’t shown in popular culture. But after Freddie Grays’ death, it felt like a disservice to not discuss social and historical context behind the protests. Having these discussions with my peers furthered my interest to learn about the city around me, and how to do justice to its strengths without ignoring its myriad challenges.

Before moving here, I had a vague notion of the poverty, violent crime, and strained race relations that the city faces. Only after living here did I begin to see the strength, resilience, and strong sense of community. I saw both of these sides to the city while planting trees in Mt. Clare with Parks & People. Some of the neighborhood association members came out to oversee the planting, but ended up regaling us with stories about their slice of Baltimore. Maria fired up a grill, called out to each of her neighbors by name, and offered them lunch with a militant hospitality. As she handed out hot dogs she peppered them with questions: how did that doctor’s appointment go, is your mother doing alright, did you hear that Sam got a job? Annie welcomed me into her rowhome, beaming with pride as she told me about the renovations she had done. On her kitchen table were blueprints that detailed her proposed improvements to the park across the street. Drivers honked happily as they passed by the new trees on the median.

Yet one neighbor wasn’t so enthusiastic, assuring us that our efforts were futile since “all these trees will be stolen in a week.” It was impossible not to ignore the trash littering the sidewalks and the boarded-up buildings. Maria told us her concerns about the drug trade that thrived in these vacant spaces after sunset. The problems in Mt. Clare were certainly impressive, but so were the people working to solve them.

As students at Johns Hopkins, we have a special responsibility to investigate the deeper story behind the city that we live and work in. Baltimore is now a permanent and significant part of our own personal stories as health professional students. Some of us will learn clinical skills from patients who live down the street from the hospital. Some will earn practicum credits by working alongside their neighbors. Others will work on studies that recruit lifelong Baltimore residents to participate. In short, our accomplishments at Hopkins are inextricably linked to the surrounding community members. They sign our diplomas just as much as the university does. But before graduation day comes, we have the opportunity to give back to Baltimore by learning about its history, getting involved in the community, and being good stewards of the place that has given us so much.

Baltimore has changed our stories. So how can we change Baltimore’s? With Baltimore Week behind us, I invite my fellow students to explore this question with me by getting involved with SOURCE throughout your time at Hopkins and in Baltimore. There will be opportunities to volunteer, hear the perspective of community members first-hand, and explore the city’s strengths that too often get overlooked through a variety of programs, so follow SOURCE on Facebook to make sure you get involved!

Rachel Koh was born in California, did her undergrad in Chicago, and then moved to Baltimore to complete her gradual eastward trek across the country. She is also pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing and Master of Public Health and serves as a SOURCE Student Governing Board Member. Upon graduation, she hopes to work as a family nurse practitioner in a community setting. In her free time you can find her exploring the city, baking, or rock climbing (with great difficulty).


SOURCE Student Group Highlights: Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition

In order to share the stories of the students and groups that work with us, we asked SOURCE partnering student groups to share their work with us. Whether you are an individual or part of a student group, you can share your story, too. Just fill out this form and we’ll reach out for submissions. 


Contributed by Mark Sine, Exec Director BSHRC

The Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition (BSHRC) is a group of students, alumni, health professionals, and community members who promote harm reduction principles through education, advocacy, and trainings. Harm reduction refers to a set of practical, non-judgmental strategies that prevent the negative consequences of people’s behavior.

BSHRC had a tremendous year of growth. In 2014, the group started a state-certified overdose response program. This involved teaching community members how to recognize the risk factors and symptoms of an opioid overdose and how to respond using naloxone, an opioid reversal medication. The program continued through 2015 and BSHRC has trained over 400 community members and health professionals in overdose response, including the distribution of over 300 free naloxone kits to individuals likely to witness an overdose.

During the fall of 2014, BSHRC helped organize the National Harm Reduction Conference in Baltimore, which had the highest ever attendance for a host city. BSHRC also expanded its advocacy efforts by working with the Maryland General Assembly during the 2015 Legislative Session to educate members on the importance of syringe access programs. We hope to see all counties in Maryland, not just Baltimore City, establish syringe access programs, as they are crucial to reducing the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C among people who inject drugs.

At the beginning of 2015, BSHRC hired a new Executive Director, Mark Sine, to help with sustainability and community networking. BSHRC is excited to move forward with new projects for the coming year, particularly by providing Harm Reduction 101 trainings at local universities. All are welcome to join BSHRC and help with these important educational activities.

From left to right: Volunteers Khristina Rhead, Laura Bartolomei-Hill, BSHRC President Mark Sine, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, and volunteer prescriber for naloxone trainings, Marian Currens.
From left to right: Volunteers Khristina Rhead, Laura Bartolomei-Hill, BSHRC President Mark Sine, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, and volunteer prescriber for naloxone trainings, Marian Currens.

SOURCE Celebrates Ten Years of Impact

SOURCE Founder & Director receives the proclamation for SOURCE Day (April 23, 2015) from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and President Ron Daniels at the SOURCE Ten Year Celebration.

Throughout 2015, SOURCE is celebrating a decade of impact. Founded in 2005, SOURCE has partnered with 100+ community-based organizations in Baltimore City and 40+ service-based student groups to provide meaningful community involvement opportunities for members of the JHU health professional schools.

In April, SOURCE held a celebration to commemorate the 10 year anniversary. View the full celebration online, or view shorter segments of the speakers (including JHU President Daniels and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake).

You can also view the Surprise Thank You Message to SOURCE that was created by JHU students, as well as a quick look at the history and impact of SOURCE throughout the past 10 years.

Subscribe to SOURCE’s YouTube channel to keep abreast of other events and activities. Happy viewing, and happy 10 year anniversary SOURCE!