Angelica Cabrera: UIC MCH Trainee Spotlight

As part of a  three part series, we will spotlight UIC MCH trainees who completed their summer applied practice experiences (APE) in summer 2019. This week’s spotlight will shine on Angelica Cabrera, who worked at PrimeCare Community Health located in Chicago, IL. Here is her experience, shared and written by Madison Levecke an Irving Harris Scholar and a MPH candidate in MCH-Epidemiology.

Author: Madison Levecke, MPH (c), Maternal and Child Health-Epidemiology and Irving Harris Scholar

This past summer, MCH Trainees participated in field experiences both locally in Chicago, across the US, and internationally. We were able to connect with three Center of Excellence (CoE) in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Masters students. I sat down with them and asked them to share their experiences and advice they would give to first year MPH students just beginning their search for their applied practice experience.  Read their stories below.

Angelica Cabrera

Angelica completed her Applied Practice Experience at PrimeCare Community Health located in Chicago, IL. PrimeCare is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), so they receive funds to help underserved communities such as low income, underrepresented minorities, and immigrant populations. They provide services such as primary care, dental, and behavioral health. Angelica was interested in working in a clinical setting in order to gain experience working directly with patients and families, as she is interested in pediatrics and pursuing medical school after her MPH.

Prior to beginning her field experience, she asked this organization, “What do you need from me?” PrimeCare mentioned that their childhood vaccination rates were low. They see a lot of missed appointments, and wanted to increase awareness about vaccinations for families in the community. Together, Angelica and her preceptor decided on creating a quality improvement project that would eventually be sustainable and increase these vaccination rates over time. Angelica created a 3-phase project: phase 1 included collecting qualitative data, such as information from Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) on which children are on time for their vaccinations, behind on well-child visits or haven’t been to the clinic in a while. From that information, she called the parents of pediatric patients in order to determine barriers that deterred them from making their appointments. Angelica also completed surveys with the clinical staff to understand what their perspective was priority areas of need for their target population. Phase 2 included the distribution of surveys to families of pediatric patients that would come in for well-child visits. These surveys included questions about what they knew about vaccinations, their beliefs on vaccinations, if they knew the importance of well child visits, and if they knew which vaccinations their child needed. Although she is still collecting and analyzing these data, she found that most families are aware of the importance of well-child visits and vaccinations. However, many do not know details about the vaccinations their child needs, or what month to come in for their well-child visit. Phase 3 is just beginning, and Angelica is gathering information on evidence-based interventions that they could possibly implement at the clinic once all data are analyzed. Phase 3 of the quality improvement project will be going into her final Integrative Learning Experience project.

I was interested in hearing about the top three things she learned during her field experience. Angelica said that the number one thing she learned from preceptor is to always ask the community what they need, and to not make any assumptions. She stated that her preceptor, Erin Howes, who is a UIC MCH alum and currently the Manager of Quality Improvement, is always in the clinic talking with patients.  Erin would say, “How are you supposed to serve your community if you don’t know what they need?” Angelica also talked about the importance of measures. This is emphasized in many courses at SPH. However when applying it to a clinical setting, she saw first-hand how critical it is that the measures reflect the actual health of the community. She learned which measures the FQHC gets funding for, and how measures are associated to goals that need to be met each year. If these goals are not being met, it could limit possible funding and therefore have a direct impact on the FQHC’s ability to help their community. The third thing that Angelica mentioned was that teamwork is critical, especially in public health. She recognized how important it is to ensure everyone within a team has quality communication.

Lastly, I asked Angelica if she could give any advice to first-year students about to begin their search for an Applied Practice Experience. She said it is important to reflect on what kind of skills you want to gain. She recommends asking yourself what kind of organization you want to partner with that could potentially give you the experience you needs to be a better professional in your field. She ended the interview by saying, “Keep an open mind because opportunities open when least expected!”