Rachael Parran, a second year PhD student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, is a student leader, active in increasing the number of students and faculty engaged in the communities surrounding the University.
For the past two years, she has worked at the Center for Community-Based Engagement and Learning to increase the number of faculty who work in our local West Baltimore community, and to enhance the rigor and scholarship around service learning courses.
Her recent work at the UMB Community Engagement Center has focused on providing resources to families, while at the same time providing valuable service learning and volunteer opportunities to students. Her contributions to the unification of the University community and the local community are very promising. Students like Rachael are critical leaders in shaping Baltimore's future.
As a nurse, I've often wondered what causes patients to return to the hospital week after week with the same issues? This question spurred my interest in community engagement work as a strategy to address many health issues that are prevalent in low-income communities. Although my focus is maternal and child health, I believe an effective approach to improving health is through community-based efforts. As a PhD student working for the University's Center for Community Based Engagement & Learning, I assist in bridging the divide between the University and the surrounding community. Through an inter-professional experience I traveled to Israel to learn maternal and child health approaches that can be adapted in local communities. I worked with WIC agencies to improve access to breastfeeding for low-income African American women. Experiential learning has had a great impact on my education, professional practice, and helped me to recognize my civic responsibility to work with communities for change. Using an approach stemmed in community-based participatory research and interdisciplinary collaboration, I hope to use the experiences that I've had to continue to work with local communities to address maternal and child health needs and improve the quality of life of underserved families.