Tasneem Shalash

Ohio State University

“The Ohio Scholars of Aging Program equipped me with invaluable knowledge that I will use to the advantage of those with whom I will work throughout the duration of my career.”

The population of aging individuals is ever-growing. The need for competent practitioners in the aging field continues to increase as modern technology continues to advance. I am proud to say that I intend on serving the aging population throughout my career as a social worker in a healthcare environment. My experience as a social work intern at the Columbus Free Clinic (CFC) has fostered my interest to pursue gerontology as an area of focus. The CFC is an interprofessional healthcare, student-run free clinic that provides healthcare services for community members in need. Through my role, I was able to interact with a large population of aging individuals and assess their direct social and mental health needs. This unique opportunity granted me the experience of establishing close bonds with the patients I helped serve.

To ensure that patients, particularly older adults, received the resources they requested at the time of their visit to the CFC, another undergraduate social work intern and I established an assessment tool that allowed us to further connect individuals to resources and services provided outside of the clinic. To achieve this objective, we followed up with patients through a phone-call program to verify whether they had experienced any barriers that prevented them from accessing and utilizing local community resources. We tracked reported barriers and worked diligently to find alternatives for individuals who were unable to employ the resources provided or helped them navigate various challenges. Following up with patients after their visit provided the social work department with a valuable understanding of client challenges. Consistently, we have found that lack of appropriate access to resources often disproportionately impacted marginalized demographics and underprivileged communities.

This initiative has been extremely effective in identifying barriers and has improved our knowledge of client demands and concerns. Additionally, it increased the rapport we were able to establish with both patients, as well as our collaboration with the medical providers. Based on the feedback we received, this project has positively impacted individuals and helped improve the overall patient experience. This opportunity has been rewarding and allowed us to focus on the social determinants of health in addition to the unforeseen challenges of resource utilization within our community.

The Ohio Scholars of Aging Program equipped me with invaluable knowledge that I will use to the advantage of those with whom I will work throughout the duration of my career. I had the great opportunity to meet like-minded and goal-oriented individuals from different academic and professional backgrounds. The aging community requires special considerations and support. I feel more prepared to go forward with the new set of skills I have learned, which I plan to implement accordingly in my future endeavors. This program has empowered me with a heightened sense of personal responsibility for the quality of care older adults receive. I am optimistic and excited to be a part of the movement to address aging concerns on both a micro and macro scale.