My past 3 months as a Rural Health Network intern have been extremely enjoyable and enlightening. Despite the challenges of working remotely, I have still been able to learn and gain so much perspective on rural culture, as well as create some pretty unforgettable experiences. Learning about various Rural Health Network programs like the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx), the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP), and the Rural Cultural Competence training really opened my eyes to the gaps and needs of these rural community members. At the same time, as I observed and became more familiar with the Rural Health Network and its mission, I became impressed with the amount of work and initiatives the Rural Health Network leads to serve the rural community.
One of my very first projects as an intern was learning about various county community health assessments and improvement plans. Perusing through all this data gave me a better picture of rural difficulties and challenges, especially related to nutrition. Working on my pilot research project about the FVRx program also enlightened me on the value of programs like the FVRx for addressing rural needs and the altruism of those that can afford to provide assistance. At first I wasn’t quite sure how somebody like me would fit in…to the Rural Health Network, and also the rural community, but I eventually found my role in sharing nutrition information in a meaningful way…as a small step. In that sense, I feel like my greatest contribution and highlight of these past 3 months has been creating helpful nutrition education materials. I had a lot of fun co-hosting the FVRx cooking workshops, designing infographics for a variety of audiences, and ultimately organizing and delivering a couple nutrition presentations of my own. While these experiences were stimulating for me and kept me busy, I think that they have also allowed me to grow into a more rurally, culturally competent individual in this short amount of time.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be wrapping up my research project regarding the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, and at the end of December, I will be moving to Rochester to start my clinical rotations at Strong Memorial Hospital in January as a continuation of my Dietetic Internship program. I’d like to thank everybody at the Rural Health Network for being so welcoming and friendly to me in the past few months, and making my experience here so memorable. It was also incredible for me to see how passionate everybody is about the work they do, and I hope that I will be able to find a work community as close-knit and dedicated as you all wherever I end up in the future as well.