Frances Hayward ’24

City on a Hill Free Clinic, Milwaukee, WI

My experience working as an AmeriCorps VISTA at City on a Hill Free Clinic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was a life-changing and professionally defining experience for me. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, I was, on paper, a volunteer through the federal government, working to improve access to quality healthcare for low-income and uninsured patients.

Frances Hayward and the City on a Hill team.My role at City on a Hill was to develop a community engagement strategy that would help the clinic increase patient attendance post-Covid, prepare the clinic with public health research to support their expansion into including a dental and mental health clinic, as well as assist the clinic and the providers with daily clerical and medical tasks. My community engagement strategy, presented to the CEO of City on a Hill, was a four-pronged approach, involving the clinic’s Saturday health outreach, direct contact with patients within the inner city, the re-recruitment of patients absent since the outbreak of the pandemic, and the administration of surveys. The data I collected for this presentation came from community listening sessions, which I hosted with community members, as well as public health resources in and about the city of Milwaukee. My research examined the barriers to receiving dental and mental health care in the inner city—including cost (even for “reduced-rate” clinics), extensive waitlists and policies that disincentivize providers from volunteering at free or charitable clinics. I attended two conferences that supported and enhanced my research: one on the importance of early childhood education on health outcomes later in life, and another on healthy aging and how the social determinants of health impact people of color at all stages of their lives. In the clinic, I was responsible for checking in patients, screening for Covid-19 symptoms and helping providers fill prescriptions. The health team at City on a Hill consisted of three non-medical staff (me, my supervisor and a health educator), and three volunteer medical providers. This close-knit environment pushed me to accept more responsibility, initiate more patient interactions and challenge myself with new tasks that I would not have attempted if the clinic had a larger staff.

This internship experience was inspiring and challenging professionally, academically and personally. It reassured me that I love working in healthcare and specifically that I am dedicated to serving the underserved. This experience has inspired me to pursue medical school post-Williams and use my training to promote public health initiatives and equity within the U.S. healthcare system. At the academic level, I was able to directly witness the impact of public health concepts—often discussed at the population level—on individual people and their lives. On a personal level, I learned how to live on my own, paying rent, utilities, gas, and groceries, and I am truly more confident and capable after having had this experience. I am so grateful for this opportunity which has truly changed my life and my professional aspirations!