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Celebrating 14 Years of Bridging the Gaps

by Paige Hawk Sep 20, 2021
2021-BtG-news

You don’t need to get on an airplane to impact the lives of others. That was just one of the many lessons Julia Marcusak ’24 learned while participating in this year’s Bridging the Gaps Lehigh Valley Affiliate program (BTG).

For 14 years, interns throughout the Lehigh Valley have dedicated their summers to helping underserved communities through BTG—a program where students engage in impactful service while gaining real-life professional experience.

“I have shifted from an individualistic view of healthcare to a community-based view of healthcare,” says Marcusak, a medical studies major. “I have learned that to better understand a patient, or just a person in general, one must explore the community from which they come from.”

Mary Ellen Miller, Ph.D., retired associate professor in the division of nursing and director of the Bridging the Gaps Lehigh Valley Affiliate, set the stage for the Lehigh Valley chapter of BTG and has been involved with the program ever since. 

At this year’s virtual poster symposium, DeSales University BTG participants Marcusak and Christelle Joseph ’23 discussed how their internship experience influenced them. They described working with local organizations such as Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley, Valley Against Sex Trafficking, and the LVHN Street Medicine program. After conducting a community assessment, they developed educational materials and programming aimed at improving health and resolving disparities.

“I have been exposed to a whole new part of myself by building relationships with people I would have probably only met in a clinical setting,” says Joseph, a nursing major. “Julia and I had never met before Bridging the Gaps, and we formed a great bond even though we study different disciplines. … I’m really grateful for that.”

Marcusak and Joseph weren’t the only ones to participate in the summer 2021 BTG Lehigh Valley Affiliate program. Fellow interns included: Emily Perruso, master’s of social work program, Marywood University; Kylie Ridley, medical student, Temple University; Roberto Rosario, medical student, Temple University; and Taylor Verreskia, nursing major, Moravian University.