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