Two of the fellows in the fall session of Legacy’s North Africa Community Health Initiative Program share their experiences learning about public health and healthcare policy in Roanoke, Virginia.   Rachid Lamjaimer is the health program assistant & training coordinator for the Peace Corp in Morocco.  Dr. Rabiî Larhrissi is a physician, general practitioner (specialty in occupational health & safety) from Morocco.

Rachid Lamjaimer: It has been a little over a week since I arrived in Roanoke, VA . The experience thus far has been very rewarding. Based on my experience, the most exciting component of the program was meeting various health care professionals. Through discussions and field visits, I began to develop an appreciation for the opportunities and challenges facing health care providers in Roanoke city and Roanoke County.

My first visit was with the Child Health Investment Partnership (CHIP). CHIP is a home visiting program that promotes the health of medically underserved children by ensuring comprehensive health care, strengthening families and coordinating community resources.  I accompanied CHIP’s Family Case Managers (FCMs) to three home visits. I got to experience first-hand how the FCMs conduct their educational visits. Compassion, love, caring, and thoughtfulness on the part of the FCMs showed their genuine dedication and passion for helping the families. In all the three visits, the educators came fully prepared and took the time to make sure the families got the most of the visit. The combination of informal conversations and written questionnaires provided enough information for the mothers to make informed decisions on either improving certain health behaviors or seeking services to improve their education and/or secure a job.

My second visit this week was with Virginia Department of Health-Environmental Health Program.   The latter is responsible for many programs, three of which are solid waste disposal, liquid waste disposal/Septic tank system,   and water.  I had the opportunity to visit Roanoke’s solid waste transfer station, a state of the art facility that has a life span of 70-75 years.  I also had the chance to visit the Spring Hollow Water Treatment Facility which treats about 7 million gallons daily. Finally, it was interesting to learn about the septic and lagoon systems used for liquid waste disposal.

In short, this experience, so far, has been enlightening, rich and very informative. ; I say these things because of the people I met, and all the things I learned in the field and in formal classes at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

This first week would not have been successful without the great support, the dedication and the professionalism of the following people: Leila Baz, Matthew Lakenbach, Mitra Nafissian Rash, and Innocentia Afa.

I also would like to extend my gratitude to  Melissa Ferguson, my wonderful mentors: Donna Sams, Claudia Newton, an d Cindy Booth. Many thank s also to Lin Young from Child Health Investment Partnership, and Dick Tab, Environmental Health and their teams for allowing me the opportunity to learn about their programs.

Last but not least, I am very grateful to my host Caryl Zaronikos for her warmth and her great sense of humor. She carries a wealth of knowledge and experience and I am just honored to have her share that with me.

With these words from Sr. Francis Bacon, I shall leave you in peace: “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake…”

Dr. Rabiî Larhrissi: I had the misfortune to be sick the first day of my work at Carilion Clinics. Misfortune? No. Not at all. It was rather a chance for me to observe the work of Carilion’s professionals, but from the point of view of … a patient.

Once at Carilion Community Hospital, I found enough panels showing me where to go and what I have to do without feeling the need to ask. After gathering some brief information, I was gently led by a nice nurse in an examination room where I had to dress a suit rather special. I will not tell you more about this clothing, but it seems that it allows professionals to do their job easily.

After multiple tests, I had the verdict. Not what I expected, but I didn’t care. Anyway, I did sign a document at the entrance saying I have no guarantee that my diagnosis would be correct. I still liked the way in which I was treated, mainly by nurses of Carilion Community Hospital. The funny thing in this story is that the nurses were providing me health care and, before leaving, were… thanking me. So, I was confused. What would I be expected to say?  You’re welcome?

I understood later that they thank you to… have trust in them! Isn’t it amazing? So, a huge tribute to all Carilion Clinic’s professionals.”

Community Health Fellows and Legacy staff pose for a group picture