Rutgers University Foundation

IMPACT Spring 2014 Issue

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OUR RUTGERS, OUR FUTURE IMPACT [ THE POWER OF GIVING AT RUTGERS ] s u p p o r t . r u t g e r s . e d u s p r i n g 2 0 1 4 I nner-city pediatricians hear about more than skinned knees and ear infections. They hear about the substandard housing conditions that exacerbate childhood asthma, the food-stamp cutoffs that leave families hungry, and the school- district red tape that keeps children with disabilities out of appropriate special education classes. "There are so many factors to a patient's health, especially for children," says Michele Pasierb NCAS'06, NJMS'11, chief pediatric resident at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. "All of it affects their long-term outcomes and whether or not they'll reach their potential." But even doctors who recognize the importance of so- called "social determinants" of health—education, housing, income supports—lack the training to help patients access those services. That insight underlies a year-old collaboration between the outpatient pediatrics department of New Jersey Medical School and the Education and Health Law Clinic of Rutgers School of Law–Newark. Known as the HEAL Collaborative—for Health, Education, Advocacy, and Law—the partnership, in which social work graduate students also participate, serves two purposes: helping low-income children and their families obtain special education and public benefits, and teaching law students, social work students, and pediatric residents about interprofessional cooperation. "We have become so siloed in society in our own disciplines that we forget to see the whole picture," says Jennifer Rosen Valverde, HEAL's legal director and a clinical professor in the Newark law school. "We all need each other. We're not going to solve poverty on our own." Although more than 100 medical-legal partnerships exist nationwide, HEAL is among only a few dozen that educate graduate students and professionals-in-training. Private support helps make the collaboration possible. HEAL's start-up costs were funded with a $125,000 grant, recently renewed for a second year, from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. The New Jersey State Bar Foundation funds Valverde's clinical position, and two medical school officials—primary care director Hanan Tanuos and Kendell Sprott, senior associate dean for clinical affairs—help administer HEAL. The collaborative works out of a fifth-floor office in the Doctors Office Center on Bergen Street in Newark, one floor above the Rutgers pediatricians who refer many of its clients. That one-stop-shopping model makes it easy for struggling families to access HEAL's free legal and case-management services during regular medical visits, Valverde says. The professionals-in-training involved with HEAL say the work has given them a new appreciation for their clients' difficult lives, and for the crucial role that an advocate can play. One client had tried repeatedly to get the housing authority to restore her hot water; a call from social-work graduate student Clarisa Claeyssen solved the problem in less than a day. "They don't get any attention because they don't have any type of authority," Claeyssen says. "I don't have any authority either, but just by saying, 'Listen, I'm calling for a client,' everything changes." HEAL spent months working with a family whose young son has both autism and heart problems. During her rotation through HEAL, Pasierb reviewed the child's medical records, helping her legal colleagues understand which health issues to focus on. Claeyssen waited for hours at the Social Security office as the boy's mother pursued an application for disability benefits. One afternoon, David Ulric NLAW'14 and a fellow law student telephoned the mother to deliver good news: after long negotiations, the school district had agreed to give her son the educational services she had requested. As Claeyssen translated their words into Spanish, the mother began to weep. "She said that she's been wanting to do this for years and nobody was taking the time to actually go in and try to do something about it," Claeyssen remembers. "Nobody wanted to understand her." "To hear how happy she was—that was great," Ulric says. "I didn't realize how emotional it could be." PHOTOGRAPHY BY DOUGLAS BENEDICT Lawyer in the House A partnership between Rutgers' law and medical schools in Newark helps address social determinants of health in low-income children. —Deborah Yaffe Major Expansion in the Health Sciences Pediatric resident Michele Pasierb, law school graduate David Ulric, and social- work graduate student Clarisa Claeyssen stand facing the Doctors Office Center in Newark, where they collaborate on cases. The creation of the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences division has left the door wide open for interdisciplinary collaboration. Your support can help the newly expanded Rutgers realize this potential. Be a Part of This Moment

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