March 2, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hailing from Aiken, South Carolina, Amanda Kitchings is a born and bred Gamecock who knew that USC would one day be her home. She studied Psychology as an undergraduate because she is fascinated by human behavior and knew she wanted to help people. As she began looking into graduate programs, she decided that she wanted to pursue a career that would enable her to impact people's lives on a broad spectrum.
The Master of Health Administration (MHA) in the Department of Health Services Policy and Management (HSPM) has proven to be an excellent fit. The program's reputation for connecting students with high quality graduate assistantships and residencies appealed to Kitchings. Under MHA Director Sudha Xirasagar's guidance, Kitchings narrowed her focus to pursuing assistantships that were community-oriented and allowed her to work directly with people.
Her assistantship with Providence Hospital's Population Health Department has since become her passion. She managed logistics for her first population health project, an annual free health clinic known as SC Mission. Kitchings worked with a team to coordinate layouts, schedules and deliveries to ensure that the two-day event was flawlessly executed. "As I pulled up to the site that first morning, I saw people lined up at the gate at 4 a.m. waiting to come in for treatment," Kitchings says. "In that moment, my entire perspective on healthcare changed, and I knew I wanted to stick with outreach and community events."
Kitchings' subsequent population health projects (e.g., cardiovascular screenings and awareness/education, support groups, fundraising events, etc.) have broadened her knowledge base and helped her develop skills that build on her HSPM coursework. Her Perspectives in Community Health Organizations course provided her with initial exposure to the concept of a medical home model and the transformation of healthcare into a more patient-centered industry. Another course shaped her perspectives on ethical issues related to healthcare, enabling her to explore how inequalities and social determinants affect a person's health status. This particular course provided a forum for students to engage in robust debates about ways to overcome health disparities.
Kitchings' residency, an MHA program requirement, involves inventorying these projects and others to provide a centralized account of all of the ways that Providence addresses population health. The inventory will be compared to the department's community health needs assessment so that the team can determine which community needs are being addressed. "Going forward," explains Kitchings, "we can strategically plan how best to address those needs we do not currently meet and define population health for Providence."
Kitchings' practical experiences with Providence have also resulted in a network of contacts for when she joins the public health field as a professional in May. "Working with Providence has deepened my healthcare values and ability to maintain integrity in all of our community outreach efforts," says Kitchings, whose dream job is to work in a hospital's community outreach department or development foundation and run logistics for multiple community events throughout the year. "I just want to make sure that whatever I do will positively impact the population around me."