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September 06, 2022

KC CARE Community Health Workers Connect with the Next Generation of Physicians

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Dr. Benjamin Grin, MD, MPH, joined KC CARE Health Center in September 2019. Today, he is Assistant Professor of Primary Care at Kansas City University (KCU) and works at KC CARE one and a half days a week. Among the classes Dr. Grin teaches to first- and second-year medical students is a new curriculum he helped develop to introduce the social determinants of health, or SDoH. SDoH are the conditions in which people live, work, and play that impact health. Community Health Workers (CHWs) help patients navigate SDoH, whether they lack housing, employment, transportation, or have other barriers to getting the services and support they need.  

 Every semester, Dr. Grin invites KC CARE’s CHWs to present to the class about their work. “Telling a patient with diabetes to just ‘eat healthy and exercise’ may not be very helpful if that patient lives in a neighborhood where it isn’t safe to exercise outside, and where they are lacking access to healthy foods,” Dr. Grin says. “I also want students to understand that healthcare is a team sport and addressing the social conditions that affect health requires engaging team members who can help… including CHWs.”  

CHW Bryan Carcamo, who immigrated with his parents from El Salvador when he was in third grade, focuses on working with Hispanic/Latinx patients. He finds it especially rewarding to work with individuals who don’t have a support network in the United States. “[I help my clients by] going to appointments [with them], explaining something, going over medications. Patients are so happy whenever we work with them.” Bryan says.  

Teaching Dr. Grin’s students and others about the importance of CHWs keeps him motivated, too. “I would say more than half do not know that there’s this support that is a connection to the community and to their patients,” Bryan says.  

“I am so thankful for our CHW team,” says Dr. Grin. “They have been crucial in helping ensure our patients get the best possible care.”