In light of prejudice, a student project explores “Health Caring” | News, Sports, Jobs
As Bryan M. Bilbao, a student at Pennsylvania College of Technology, Old Forge, sat in a hospital room with his aging grandmother near the end of his life, he noticed a difference in the way professionals of health interacted with it.
Providers entering the room asked friendly and thoughtful questions of her grandmother’s roommate: “Are you feeling okay?” “Do you need something?” But the same bedside manner did not reach its “Nonna”, Italy Cusati. Cusati, who was born in Italy and moved to Uruguay to work when she was 5, didn’t speak English.
Perhaps hospital workers were intimidated to strike up a conversation with someone whose language they didn’t speak, Bilbao said. But he longed to see an attempt at communication with his grandmother – a simple question she could say yes or no to, empathetic body language.
Two weeks after his grandmother passed away in July 2020, Bilbao began classes in the Physician Assistant Studies major at Penn College.
The experience with his grandmother, as well as his work in a crisis center (he has a bachelor’s degree in psychology) where he felt that patients were sometimes treated as numbers rather than people, froze with Penn College classroom lessons on culturally competent care and health care disparities. He was driven to make a change within his future profession.
The change has begun, Bilbao said, learning more about how those who fall outside “Ordinary” – because of their language, physical or intellectual abilities, race, sexual preferences or gender identity – are treated differently by health care providers.
For a final project in its summer 2021 medical decision-making course, Bilbao developed a video sharing the story of Italia Cusati and interviewed 10 people from diverse backgrounds about any disparities or struggles they were having. encountered when seeking health care. The video quickly gained traction, amassing over 12,000 views.
For his capstone project, presented in August to crown his studies at Penn College, Bilbao reversed the script.
“I wanted to do it again. I wanted to expose it more; I wanted to know more” said Bilbao. “But I started asking myself a different question: ‘What are we doing well? Are there people like me trying to make an impact? And that’s, I guess, where it comes from. This stemmed from the simple fact of asking the question: “What are we doing well?” There are so many negatives I found; there must be something positive somewhere.
Over the past year, he’s spent 100 hours on a new video project that shares the efforts of those who work hard to ensure everyone is treated with the same attention and care.
Among those interviewed for the hour-long video, titled “Health care”, are Dr. Denise Johnson, Acting Secretary of Health and Surgeon General of Pennsylvania; Sharon L. Larson, executive director and resident faculty member of Main Line Health’s Lankenau Institute for Medical Research; Ryan Tolbert, an executive from the dressing company Tru Colour; Victoria Ho, former American Academy of Physician Assistants student of the year; other leaders in the PA profession; and current PA students.
“So it was just a crazy project to see that there are people like me, doing better than me, and they are actively playing a part in making the world a better place, especially in healthcare.” , said Bilbao.
What he hopes others will gain by watching “Health care” is that each person should be treated as a person.
“Treat everyone like they’re your mom, your sister, your brother, your best friend” said Bilbao. “I think people lose sight of that, especially when they’re busy or have implicit biases that they let go.”
Bilbao will think of treating others as he would treat his nonna.
Bilbao spent a lot of time caring for his grandmother in the last two years of her life. When she fell very ill on her birthday, July 26, 2020, Bilbao took her to the emergency room and spent the next two days – until her death – in hospital with her.
“I always say there wasn’t a place or person I would have preferred to spend my birthday with” he said.
His grandmother, grandfather, and parents immigrated to the United States from Uruguay about 35 years ago. While her grandfather, mother and father worked long hours, her grandmother stayed home with Bilbao and her three sisters. He remembers sitting together in their Old Forge garden, looking at the sunflowers his grandmother had planted and laughing at the alley cats.
“She was my best friend,” he says. “She always took care of me.”
He continues to wear a sunflower in his lab coat to remind him that every patient he sees is “someone is someone.”
Bilbao was selected as a student speaker at Penn College’s commencement ceremony on August 6 and received the Lewis H. Bardo Memorial Award, given to a graduate who exemplifies dedication to duty, helping others, friendliness and high ideals.
Over the next few weeks, he will be studying for the national physician assistant certification exam and has accepted an emergency medicine position with Apollo MD, circulating between emergency rooms at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. , Moses Taylor Hospital and Scranton Regional Hospital. He also plans to take a few days to finally mourn his grandmother and dedicate his academic honors to her.
“One day, once I gain experience and start practicing medicine a bit more, I want to be a mentor – a preceptor – taking on my own PA students, trying to advocate not only for good healthcare in terms of learning about your medicine, how to prescribe the right dosage, how to diagnose correctly, but also take care of the individual,” he said. “That’s my goal, and I want to pass that on to the students.”
He hopes to join the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants and, possibly eventually, the American Academy of Physician Assistants to work on legislation that would address health care disparities within the profession.