Three years ago the plan was different. 

Filiberto Hernandez, a homeless senior, was cobbling day laborer jobs in the Mission District. A.J. Burleson had moved up at a tech start-up in Oakland. Shalom Bandi was about to finish school, and like other soon-to-be 20-something graduates, was ostensibly on the cusp of the rest of her life. 

Then the homeless shelters went on lockdown. Burleson was laid off. UCLA told Bandi to go home. Hadn’t they heard? A fatal virus was spreading worldwide and, as companies shrunk staff, it seemed every job listing froze — except those in healthcare. For a select bunch, the pandemic would take their lives on a dramatic detour. 

The pandemic transformed dozens of Bay Area residents with minimal to zero experience in medicine into full-fledged community health workers. Now, three years and seven months later, the benefits of that surge are clear. 

These workers are filling vacancies at local medical systems like UCSF or the Department of Public Health, and diversifying public health or medical schools. They are coordinating vaccinations and supplies to boost health in Bay Area neighborhoods. Through a combination of skills, they are chipping away at historic health inequities in San Francisco and Alameda counties by working in communities long-neglected by medicine. 

“I hope that the institutions who benefited from the community coming together and being part of the solution remember that the community is part of the solution,” said Dr. Kim Rhoads, director for engagement at UCSF’s cancer center. 

Their work had an outsize effect on San Francisco’s vulnerable, and is proof that hiring from the community can be valuable to combatting medicine’s diversity problem

“They want to take action,” Rhoads said. 

Source link