Nurse practitioner Dan Larmour thought he was worldly when he came back from an earlier stint studying abroad, but it did not prepare him for the world he encountered right at home while studying Nursing at Community College of Philadelphia.
Through his clinical practices and service-learning activities, Larmour, had a firsthand view of the ways poverty and social injustices foster health disparities.
"It's humbling. You wonder why people aren't taking their medicine," Larmour said. The answer, he discovered, sometimes is heartbreaking. "Either the lights stay on in my house, or my daughter eats, or I pay for my inhaler,” a patient once told him.
Larmour, now a member of the adjunct Nursing faculty at the College, was one of three panelists at the breakfast launch of the College’s Fall 2018 Pathways magazine, a workforce publication that focused on how the College’s educational offerings enrich and improve health care delivery.
Moderated by Dr. Mary Anne Celenza, dean of the College's Division of Math, Science and Health Careers, the panel also included Jennifer Myers, a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship recipient and 2017 graduate of the College’s Diagnostic Medical Imaging program, and Laureen Tavolaro Ryley, associate professor of Nursing and Independence Foundation Chair in Nursing.
For the panelists, that close connection to the community is what makes the College’s curricula so powerful. Most students, whether they are studying Nursing, Respiratory Therapy or Dental Hygiene, come from Philadelphia, and when they graduate, they tend to find employment here.
The diversity of students in the College’s medical programs matches the diversity of Philadelphia's residents, noted Myers. "It allows health care providers to go and form relationships with the under-represented segments of the community," she said. "I like the idea that CCP students can go out and be role models."
As a winner of a prestigious Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, Myers received up to $40,000 a year in financial aid to pursue her bachelor’s degree. She is now attending Thomas Jefferson University, where she is pursuing a degree in medical sonography. She stressed how well her education at the College prepared her for her advanced studies. “Every step of the way I’ve been supported,” she said. “In a large four-year institution, you might feel lost in the shuffle. But you never feel that way in Community College of Philadelphia.”
The College doesn't just prepare health professionals to care for patients at the bedside, although area hospitals and labs provide clinical training and apprenticeships for students. Health care employment opportunities are expanding to include jobs at neighborhood clinics, home health care services, community wellness practices and more. Larmour, for example, works in hospice care and visits Medicare patients at home. Myers is employed at Mercy Philadelphia Hospital as a radiograph servicer and sonographer.
The College's health care students learn, through practical experience and hands-on experiences in the city's neighborhoods, how to communicate with a variety of patients and understand how linguistics, culture and even family traditions can enhance service delivery.
This experience is critical, according to Tavolaro-Ryley. For example, the College's 19130 ZIP Code Project health program, which she described as a clinic without walls, prepares students to work as collaborators with community partners and provide screenings, lessons and other forms of care to seniors, preschoolers, grade-school children and the homeless throughout the city, but particularly in the College's nearby neighborhoods. "Many Nursing graduates return to their own communities to work and to address disparities and other critical health care issues, said Tavolaro-Ryley, who is featured in the magazine’s cover story.
“Other than the obvious fact that the students and faculty are giving back to the community,” strong partnerships with area schools and other institutions “allow the students to hone their skills and recognize the needs of their communities, “Dr. Celenza added.
Those partnerships "are vital to providing students with the in-demand skills and broad experiences sought after by employers and four-year programs," College Foundation vice president Sulaiman Rahman said in opening remarks at the breakfast.
The College offers many degrees and certificate programs in health care, among them Nursing, Respiratory Therapy, Dental Hygiene, Diagnostic Medical Imaging, Medical Laboratory Technician, Ophthalmic Technician, Medical Assistant and Health Care Studies.
"It's rare that you can go to any health care institution in Philadelphia without seeing a graduate of Community College," Dr. Donald Guy Generals, the college’s president, said. "We are foundational to health care" in the city.