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NCCHC Foundation Scholarship Winners Say Thank You

In keeping with one area of the NCCHC Foundation’s focus – scholarships, opportunities for continuing education, and workforce development – 30% of all funds raised to date were put toward scholarships to the virtual National Conference on Correctional Health Care.

From among more than 90 applications received, the Foundation Board of Trustees selected nine individuals from across all sectors of correctional health: administrators, medical staff, mental health professionals, and nurses, reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of the work. Criteria included being a student or a professional with seven or fewer years in the field.

Earlier this month, the scholarship recipients attended a Foundation Zoom event to talk about their experience at the conference. They voiced a lot of gratitude – and some familiar themes.

Like so many first-time conference attendees, Sabreena Hassim, LCSW, MSW, a mental health professional with North Las Vegas Community Corrections Center, reported feeling more supported: “It was nice to be around others who understand and learn how things are done in other facilities,” she said, adding that some of the topics she learned about during the conference “coincided with patients that were popping up that day” at her facility.

Meera Patel, MEd, a PhD candidate in counseling psychology at the University of Tennessee who is interested in neuroscience-informed intervention also reported having gained valuable information she could apply right away in her practice providing crisis services at three county jails in the Memphis area.

Helen Jack, MD, a third-year internal medicine resident at University of Washington Medical School in Seattle, is interested in pursuing a career in correctional health, but her training program, she said, has given her minimal exposure to the field. “This was a wonderful opportunity to understand how many of the concepts I see in my medical training are applied within a correctional setting.”

That thought was echoed by Kathryn McDowell, a Master’s in Public Health candidate at the University of Washington: “This conference really helped me understand what health care looks like on the ground in jails and prisons, as I haven’t yet had the experience of working in a detention center,” she said, adding that she felt honored to be able to attend.

Noor Taweh, a senior at the University of Connecticut studying physiology, neurobiology, and human rights, also found that the conference filled an important gap, rounding out knowledge she has gained through volunteer work and research on HIV/AIDS, homelessness, and substance abuse. She is planning to go to medical school and work to create linkages upon reentry.

“I loved every session I went to,” reported Lisa Pickett, RN, nurse supervisor at the Multnomah County Detention Center in Portland, Oregon. “We are the center of a lot of what is happening in our nation right now,” she said, explaining that she wants to share what she learned to help remind her staff of the importance of the work they do to help marginalized people.

Jessica Robles, RN, accreditation, regulatory affairs, and quality specialist, at the Cuyahoga (OH) County Jail, said she particularly enjoyed learning becoming more familiar with the NCCHC standards and also is looking forward sharing everything she learned. “I can’t wait to teach them what I have learned to help provide our patients even better care,” she said.

Kelly Ryun, BSN, RN, a nurse in the intake department at Washoe County (NV) Detention Facility, shared this story: “Corrections was not something I knew about when I graduated nursing school. I thought my only options were working in a hospital or a nursing home. Then a neighbor invited me to ‘have a look around the jail’…” and she never looked back.

Kelly Podshadley, MA, CCHP, a paralegal working for Maricopa County in Phoenix, Arizona, told event attendees, “I’m grateful because I simply would not have been able to attend otherwise. We simply don’t have the funding this year because of COVID.” She believes that the goal of  corrections should be rehabilitation, not punishment, and said it warms her heart to know that NCCHC is helping ensure that incarcerated people are in good shape when they reenter the community.

After hearing their stories, NCCHC Foundation Board of Trustees chair Tom Fagan, PhD, CCHP-MH, said that after 40-some years in the field, he found it inspiring to hear the scholarship recipients’ level of excitement.

Wally Campbell, PhD, CCHP-MH, behavioral health director with the Idaho Department of Corrections, who attended the event, agreed: “Listening to them makes me feel like the future of the field is in good hands.”

Learn more about the NCCHC Foundation.

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