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Introducing the Grinnell Health Advocacy and Mentorship Program (GHAMP)

The Beginnings of GHAMP

Growing up chronically ill and low-income in rural Nebraska, Emmy Potter ‘24 learned early in life that health care access is difficult in rural America. Traveling over two hours for appointments was routine for her, and expensive medical bills were a fact of life. These experiences sparked Emmy’s passion for health care, and she became committed to being pre-med in order to better serve patients like her. Her budding interest in medicine led her to get involved in patient advocacy, leading support groups for patients like her since 2020. However, she soon realized that there were many more problems with the U.S. healthcare system than she initially realized and many more populations experiencing health care disparities in the U.S. With a newfound passion for reducing health disparities and improving health outcomes, Emmy sought out volunteer and work experiences that would teach her more about the intersections between policy, social justice, and medicine. She soon began interning in health policy and grew a desire to make an impact on patients and their experiences beyond the exam room. Gaining knowledge from staff at National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF), Families USA, United States of Care, and the White House, Emmy brought health policy knowledge from D.C. to Grinnell to remedy issues that students were facing when accessing care.

GHAMP Launches

These experiences inspired Emmy to create a student organization dedicated to empowering students on campus to be active participants in their health care and helping them navigate any barriers to obtaining this care. With the goal in mind, and assistance from students and staff, the Grinnell Health Advocacy and Mentorship Program (GHAMP) officially launched in August of 2023. However, we soon realized that funding was scarce and difficult to navigate while maintaining our goals as an organization. After struggling to find stable funding sources, we pitched our idea to the Wilson Center Catalyst during the fall and became the first initiative to be funded by the Catalyst.

As an organization, we strive to educate Grinnell students about health insurance, and the health care system more broadly, so that they can make informed decisions about their health care and access resources that may help them mitigate barriers to health care that they experience. We are specifically interested in helping student populations who are more likely to be unfamiliar with the U.S. healthcare system and experience health care disparities, such as international students; BIPOC students; LGBTQ+ students; disabled students; and students from low-income backgrounds, among others. However, we are committed to helping every Grinnellian, regardless of their social identities or circumstances, access and feel confident navigating health care.

In addition to these goals we wanted to provide a general space for all students to ask questions about using insurance, scheduling appointments, paying medical bills, advocating for themselves to providers, and accessing resources available to them to ensure they receive the care they need in a rural setting like Grinnell, Iowa. To make ourselves an accessible and comfortable resource to all students, we host open hours where any student can drop in to ask questions, host larger presentations, and are available to answer questions one-on-one through meetings or via email. Students may also find us tabling in the JRC from time to time! Additionally, in order to further our goals, we work closely with the staff in Student Health and Wellness (SHAW) to ensure that we are uplifting resources available to students and bridging any gaps that exist.

Our current team consists of four members (President Emmy Potter ‘24, Vice President Anu Sanumi ‘26, Treasurer David Stefanoff ‘24, and Secretary Hope Harrington ‘24), and to end out the academic year, we are currently focused on marketing the program, running workshops and presentations for students, and distributing the resource guides that we have created. While this venture has been more difficult and convoluted than we initially thought, we are grateful for the Catalyst for their support and look forward to continuing to improve GHAMP to meet the needs of Grinnell students.

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