Melodyanne Cheng, '18, MA '19
Heart in service
"I carry my community on my back," said the man who stood tall at the front of the East Palo Alto City Council meeting room.
He was dressed in vivid ink tattoos and wringing a beanie between his hands. He proclaimed himself an elementary school graduate, and the observing crowd fell palpably silent. When the city council questioned his qualifications, revealing his lack of skill and experience for the position in comparison with the real estate lawyer candidate and the previous board member running for re-election, the man proudly defended his right for candidacy on the Rent Stabilization Board as a proud product of East Palo Alto.
"I may not have training," he boomed, "but I have heart."
As a Community Health Advocacy Fellow, I was an outsider observing the rent control committee elections, hoping to understand some of the political events that have great impact upon the overall health of the community I served. Unlivable conditions, lack of accessible housing, rocketing rent prices, and gentrification are negatively affecting the East Palo Alto community and the health of the patients I serve.
The man's words echo in my mind as I volunteer at Ravenswood Family Health Clinic, which serves a patient community that is majority low-income.
It's been my absolute joy to get to know patients as they share precious pieces of their life stories with me. As I interact with patients as a women's health navigator, I see patient wellness impacted by so many different upstream social determinants of health, such as zoning policies, housing affordability, and housing conditions. I'm honored to serve these amazing people in whatever capacity I can, now as a patient advocate and in the future as a community health-focused physician. Melodyanne is a member of the 2017-18 cohort of the Public Service Honor Society.