Skip to main content

Immersion Spotlight

Jaime Pérez, Class of 2022

Major: Medicine, Health, and Society

Minor: Business

Jaime Perez Shade Tree Clinic

September 10, 2020

Hello everyone! My name is Jaime Pérez and I was born and raised in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. I am currently a junior at Vanderbilt, where I am majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society and a member of the school’s Association of Latin American Students (ALAS). Because of my fluency in Spanish (I am a native speaker) and English, and my dedication to service and to the Latinx community, I volunteer at the Shade Tree Clinic (STC) in Nashville. The STC is a Vanderbilt University Medical Center-run clinic that provides free care to people without health insurance in Tennessee. A significant percentage of those who receive care are members of the Latinx community who have come to the United States in search of a better life, but are not proficient in English and may have difficulties communicating with healthcare providers; this is where I come in.

As a volunteer translator, my role is to facilitate communication between the doctors and medical students providing the service and the non-English dominant patient receiving care. I serve as the patient’s voice for everything they want to say and I share the medical care providers’ thoughts; I work as the in-between for some very important conversations. I also help patients check-in, move around the facility, and complete any other requests that are asked of me.

For this school year, I hope to give you all a glimpse into what I do and all the great work that goes on at the Shade Tree Clinic. I hope to write a blog once month when I am at the clinic. Finally, I also want to shine a light on those we serve at the Shade Tree Clinic.

October 10, 2020

Hey everyone! I just finished another successful remote shift for the Shade Tree Clinic. My first call went smoothly and we were able to provide the patient with the guidance and help they needed. Unfortunately, the second patient of the day did not answer, so we were unable to aid them, but that appointment will be rescheduled. Two patients is much less than the amount I usually work with, but this is not surprising - there have been a lot less patients since the Covid-19 pandemic started and the Clinic had to shift to a hybrid model.

It is important to acknowledge how much the pandemic has changed the roles and experiences of everyone at STC. Doctors and medical students are mostly working from their homes or offices, translators are answering calls through Zoom or our phones, and patients only go to the  clinic for tests or medicine pick-ups. With all of my work being done from home, I don’t get to interact with STC workers and patients as much as I used to or would like to. It has also made everyone’s job a little more difficult: providers cannot provide the same type of care, there is a lag between us translators receiving information and relaying it, and patients are not getting physically checked. But the STC is doing everything in its power to make healthcare possible for our patients, given the circumstances. I’m proud of how we have adapted to the new “normal” and I know that we all still have the same passion to serve the community, especially in these times of need, which is what inspires me during every single shift.

Until next time!

November 10, 2020

I just got out of my third remote shift - my first Tuesday night one since I returned to Nashville. The first patient of the day was unfortunately not able to make it to the Zoom call (which I’ll dive into soon). We had a really long appointment with the second patient, but the STC was able to put them in a great position moving forward. In some good news, the Clinic has begun/started offering some in-person appointments, and this patient attended one of them, so it was great to see members of the STC community back inside the care rooms (even though I was seeing them through a screen). Because of the second call’s length, I was unable to make it to the third patient, but fortunately, they still received proper care.

One of the many issues we’ve seen exacerbated since the start of the pandemic has been the disparity in technological resources for different populations in the United States. Since I started working remote shifts in May, this problem has been evident, as many of our patients struggle to access Zoom or figure out how to attend an appointment through a phone call. It is lamentable that, as the telehealth industry is booming for many, others are struggling to receive the available care that they need and want. A lot of people in this country, including many STC patients, are dealing with a lack of resources, which impacts their lives in a multitude of ways. I think it’s important for us as a society to recognize this disparity and look for ways to fix it.

Next week is my last week of classes before we head out for Thanksgiving break. I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to be in Nashville this semester, but I cannot wait to be back home.

Stay safe everyone! 

December 5, 2020

Today was my last remote shift of 2020. This time, I worked from my room in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico instead of Nashville. We went 2 for 2 on patients today, so that worked out perfectly! The first appointment went smoothly, except for the occasional slow-down in connection. The second patient initially had issues connecting to Zoom and talking with us, but once that was figured out, we had absolutely no issues.

Last week was Thanksgiving (I hope you all enjoyed some pie!) and I am thankful that I was able to be home and spend the day with my family. It’s always great to be back after being away for a few months. Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are rising everywhere in the US and at an alarming rate; the virus continues to disproportionately affect minority communities, including Latinx people, because of a multitude of reasons. 2020 has been a very tough year for all us and it seems like this will continue into 2021. Over the next few weeks, the holidays will kick in and we’ll be able to celebrate with our loved ones. Even though we’ll all have to stay in our homes and avoid traveling to contain the virus, this holiday season is another moment for us to be thankful for what we do have. Please look out for your loved ones and stay safe. It’ll be a new year next time I write.

Happy Holidays!