Student Life

Bridging The Gaps

The Bridging the Gaps Community Health Internship Program (BTG CHIP) is a unique opportunity to engage in community service with a New Jersey organization working with underserved populations. Working with dedicated community partners & academic faculty and staff, students develop population-level health interventions, strengthen their leadership & organizational skills, & learn collaboratively on interdisciplinary teams made up of students pursuing degrees in the health professions. Bridging the Gaps is not a research experience.

BTG is a paid 7-week summer internship for health profession students. Interns are placed at a community agency based on their interest, and spend four days per week there, and one day per week in workshops in Piscataway.

Bridging the Gaps is administered by the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and Rutgers School of Public Health. Bridging the Gaps is open to graduate level students in the following schools at Rutgers: Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, New Jersey Medical School, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, School of Dental Medicine, School of Health Professions, School of Nursing and School of Public Health.

For more information e-mail Sarah Kelly or Maria Pellerano . You may also go to the Bridging the Gaps website hosted by the University of Pennsylvania.

What do Students Say?

“ This project gave me an opportunity this summer to appropriately serve the community… As an aspiring physician, I feel it is important to learn how to reach out to underserved and disadvantaged communities.” — John
“ I feel incredibly lucky to have this experience working with the people of Camden. The patients shared stories and problems with me that challenged my current way of thinking of the delivery of healthcare.” — Danielle
“ It has been a wonderful journey getting to know the youth of Camden and knowing that we are making a difference in their lives. It was a great experience taking the concepts we learned in school and applying them in a practical sense.” — Mutiat
“ Bridging the Gaps internship demonstrated to me how health professionals of different backgrounds can effectively communicate as a team to achieve the best level of care for their clients. As a medical student, this is a valuable lesson that will ultimately benefit future patients.” — Jamie


Photo: 2019 Bridging the Gaps Program

Past Projects

The Arc of Somerset County

Arc Best Buddies: Intergenerational Mentorship Program

Student Interns:
Jacob Beebe, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy
Ijeoma Unachukwu, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Academic Preceptors:
Betsy Mathew, MD, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Mary Wagner, PharmD, MS, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptor:
Karen Kowalski, MPH, OTR, The Arc of Somerset County

Community Site Background:
The Arc of Somerset County is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide quality services and advocacy to support development and achievement at every stage of life for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns developed the “Arc Best Buddies” program, an intergenerational mentorship program that matched older consumers with younger consumers inside the different day program sites at the Arc. The buddy matches met once a week for an hour and participated in a set of activities that fostered communication and strengthened inter-personal relationships. The program included group activities, such as Taboo and Family Feud and paired “buddy” activities, such as arts and crafts and puzzles. The program participants were a heterogeneous mix of young and older adults with various disabilities and varying levels of communication.

Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services

Integrated Health Interventions for Patients with Mental Illness

Student Interns:
Nicholas Lozano, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Astha Parikh, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptors:
Shauna Downs, PhD, MS, Rutgers University, School of Public Health Megan Maroney, PharmD, BCPP, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptor:
Michael Swerdlow, PhD, FACHE, Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services

Community Site Background:
Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services was established in 1970 with the goal of rehabilitating people with mental illness and paving a path for their recovery. It also aims to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Bridgeway helps people with mental illness to fully integrate back into society by assisting them in myriad ways, ranging from PACT (Program for Assertive Community Treatment) team home visits to a partial-care day facility. Its partial-care facility holds daily group sessions on topics such as healthy living and recovering from substance abuse. Bridgeway also focuses on social skills, job preparation and creative outlets for the people served.

Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns’ project evaluated the successes and barriers of integrated care through the Bridge to Wellness program at Bridgeway. The interns developed a survey which assessed the person’s served understanding of their primary care needs, their use of their primary care physician, and their awareness of the Bridge to Wellness program offered at Bridgeway. The interview questions were mostly open-ended to foster further conversation, which allowed the student interns to understand some of the reasons why persons served did not utilize the Bridge to Wellness program. Each interview lasted about 20-30 minutes and all responses were typed into a Word document. The main takeaways and common responses were presented on the poster.

Coming Home of Middlesex County, Inc.

New Brunswick’s Invisible Community

Student Interns:
Lisa Dawson-Annan, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Carlos Mendoza, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Academic Preceptors:
Irina B. Grafova, PhD., Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Michael A. Noll, MD, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Community Preceptor:
Eileen O’Donnell, JD, MPP, MSW, Coming Home of Middlesex County

Community Site Background:
Coming Home is a non-profit corporation formed by Middlesex County and the United Way of Central Jersey to create a true system to end homelessness in the County. The organization builds coalitions and foster collaborative strategies and public-private partnerships among local government, affordable housing developers, social service providers and others. Collectively, its mission is to rehouse individuals and families as quickly as possible and to provide connections to community resources to enable them to sustain their new homes.

Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns were given the opportunity to get to know the previously homeless individuals. The interns created projects to help these individuals lead healthier lives. Projects included creating a community garden and holding weekly health workshops guided by the tenants’ interests. The goal for the community garden was to bring members of the community together and establish a garden that will flourish into sustainable food that can be used by tenants. With the tenants the student interns planted tomatoes, basil, and zucchini and provided instructions on how to maintain the plants. For the health workshops, the interns surveyed tenants and learned that the tenants wanted workshops on nutrition and blood pressure. The student interns, held a blood pressure clinic, which included a presentation about what it means to have high blood pressure and how to read medications they may be on. The student interns then screened every individual who attended and provided worksheets to keep track of blood pressure on a regular basis. The nutrition workshop included a presentation illustrating easy-to-prepare, healthy cost-effective meals and a shopping exercise using pictures of researched locally available and affordable foods.

Elijah’s Promise, New Brunswick

Diabetes Prevention and Management at a Local Community Soup Kitchen

Student Interns:
Prem Patel, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Afra Trinidad, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptors:
Teri Lassiter, PhD, MPH, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Caitlyn McCarthy, PharmD, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptor:
Yvette Molina, Elijah’s Promise
Nimit Shah, Elijah’s Promise

Community Site Background:
Elijah’s Promise began as a volunteer-run soup kitchen serving the hungry in New Brunswick, NJ, and has since expanded into a social enterprise, providing jobs and training opportunities for impoverished and underrepresented people. Elijah’s Promise prepares thousands of delicious, nutritious meals each year and provides the hungry with access to fresh, quality food, because all people should have access to good food. In addition to providing healthy food to the community, Elijah’s Promise connects low-income individuals and families with social and health services.

Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns developed and fielded a survey to 114 patrons at Elijah’s Promise Community Kitchen and created and conducted a diabetes prevention workshop based on participant responses. In response to questions about participants’ health, approximately 20% percent of respondents had been diagnosed with diabetes and 9% had been prescribed insulin. The student interns analyzed the survey data and created a report that provided Elijah’s Promise preceptors with information about participant preferences for the workshop and suggestions about improving the organization. For one week, during the lunch service, the student interns handed out flyers and signed up potential attendees. Based on survey data, the student interns developed a workshop primarily focused on diabetes prevention through healthy and sustainable nutrition/diet practices and included information about managing diabetes.

Making it Possible to End Homelessness - Amandla Crossing & Imani Park

Engaging the Community at Permanent Supportive Housing

Student Interns:
Lisangi Fernandez, Rutgers University, School of Health Professions, Physician Assistant Program
Sara Hwang, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptors:
Frank Giannelli, MS, PA-C, Rutgers University, School of Health Professions, Physician Assistant Program
Anita Siu, PharmD, BCPPS, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptor:
Melissa Mascolo, MA, Making it Possible to End Homelessness (MIPH)

Community Site Background:
Making It Possible to End Homelessness is partnering with Mission First Housing Group in its initiative to end homelessness in Central New Jersey. Amandla Crossing and Imani Park provide permanent supportive housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Middlesex County. Amandla and Imani have 46 units of safe, affordable, permanent housing combined with on-site support services where residents can access the resources they need to increase health, independence and housing stability.

Project:
This project consisted of individual case management as well as group interventions with a theme of overall health and wellness. With individual cases, the Bridging the Gaps student interns learned how to navigate the healthcare system, transportation services, and numerous in-home services. Some of these individuals had physical disabilities and others had less visible disabilities such as being hearing impaired. Through a survey, the student interns arranged a series of workshops based on the interests of the residents. Topics included smart food shopping, healthy alternatives, stress management, beginner yoga exercises, oral hygiene, and recreational activities for children. To promote a continuity of services, the student interns established numerous relationships with local businesses such as the public library, Zufall Health Center, and Roots to Rise, a nonprofit yoga organization.

Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey

Relationship Goals: Promoting Healthy Relationships

Student Interns:
Kiera Brennan, Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School
Ranelle Tulloch, Rutgers University, School of Public Health

Academic Preceptors:
Bianca Dube, MD, Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School
Jesse Plascak, PhD, Rutgers University, School of Public Health

Community Preceptor:
Ilise Zimmerman, MS, MPH, Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey

Community Site Background:
The Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey, Inc. is a nonprofit organization of health care professionals and consumers dedicated to providing education and increasing community awareness by facilitating collaboration among the private sector, the public sector, and maternal and child health care providers for the delivery of high quality coordinated maternal and child health care. The organization’s Irvington office, known as the Irvington Family Development Center is a family success center geared towards providing a variety of services for people of all ages and backgrounds within the community. These services include providing workshops, job readiness support, free pregnancy tests, and after school programs for children.

Project:
The Bridging the Gaps student interns’ project focused on creating a three-part pilot series of culturally competent workshops addressing healthy relationships inspired by the Couple LINKS curriculum. Couple LINKS is a marriage-based curriculum that needed to be modified and adapted to suit the community needs of Irvington, New Jersey. The student interns developed a captivating promotional flyer and designed a PowerPoint for the weekly workshops that included videos and interactive activities to engage participants. The topics included: healthy communication, conflict resolution, and romance and intimacy. Workshop participants were women from the Stepping Stones Program, a program under The Bridge that teaches women healthy lifestyle components. The student interns collaborated with The Bridge to ensure that the curriculum was relevant to the population’s unique needs.

Zufall Health, Community Health Center, Somerville, NJ

Culturally Sensitive Diabetes Education

Student Interns:
Alexandria Kulik, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Daniel Mesa, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Academic Preceptors:
Bernadette Hohl, PhD, MPH, Rutgers University, School of Public Health
Mary Bridgeman, PharmD, BCPS, CGP, FASCP, Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy

Community Preceptor:
Douglas Bishop, MD, Zufall Community Health Center

Community Site Background:
Zufall Community Health Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center with eight locations across six NJ counties. The Center primarily serves uninsured and underinsured patients, as well as a large Hispanic/Latinx population. Zufall’s mission is “to provide access to quality, affordable and culturally competent healthcare to people and communities who experience barriers to care.”

Project:
Zufall Community Health Center has many patients with diabetes, the majority of whom are Spanish-speaking. The Bridging the Gaps student interns facilitated diabetes education group sessions in English and Spanish for Zufall’s patients. The topics covered included in the workshop included, nutrition, exercise, mental health, medication adherence, and complications of diabetes. The student interns put a special emphasis on nutrition, with a goal to provide patients with culturally relevant information. The interns provided patients with various handouts to take home that had additional information on the topics covered, such as healthier ways to prepare traditional Latin American foods. The Zufall Community Health Center was provided with these supplemental materials, so that health care practitioners can other patients with information on a variety of topics related to diabetes.