By Mrinal Gokhale
On the afternoon of Friday, January 15, about 30 people filled the Walnut Way Conservation Corp. (2240 N 17th St) to discuss UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health’s TRIUMPH program and showcase its accomplishments.
Diverse individuals attended including seven TRIUMPH students, Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd, UW Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and professionals from nonprofits and hospitals that partner with TRIUMPH such as the Walnut Way Men’s Wellness Project, Aurora Family Medicine, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers and more. “
About 26 organizations partner with us including Walnut Way Conservation Corp and TRIUMPHs’s goal is finding the right partnerships,” said Melissa Lemke, TRIUMPH program coordinator.
TRIUMPH director Cindy Haq started the discussion, giving an overview of why TRIUMPH began in 2009.
“Ten years ago, we wanted to measure health outcomes within counties. We’re right now sitting in the zip code with the worst health outcomes in the state,” she said.
Haq added that she thinks the biggest challenge is partnering with the right organizations and hospitals.
“The biggest factors impacting health outcomes are incarceration rates, economic challenges and access to jobs.”
TRIUMPH stands for Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health.
The program lasts 1.5 years, allowing UW Madison medical school participants to complete a public health project with a partner organization in Milwaukee, often in a disadvantaged population.
Project goals range from improving nutrition and exercise, decreasing infant mortality and family violence.
“The three components in TRIUMPH include the clinical aspect along with public health and leadership skills,” explained Haq.
TRIUMPH associate director Michelle Buelow signed up for TRIUMPH when it first started, and is also working at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers on Milwaukee’s south side.
“I did my project at Sixteenth Street and although TRIUMPH just began at the time, it provided valuable experience,” she recalled.
“It’s exciting to see students from all over the country do TRIUMPH and work in underserved Milwaukee zip codes.”
She added that 66 students have graduated from the program so far, and 101 students have been enrolled to date.
After a program overview was given, seven TRIUMPH participants each introduced themselves and presented their projects. They have completed about a year and will graduate TRIUMPH this summer.
Nayeli Spahr, is currently completing her project at Sixteenth Street Health Centers with families who speak primarily Spanish.
“I conduct group well-child classes for Spanish speaking mothers and their children,” she said.
Spahr said that Spanish speakers don’t always have a support structure and that she hopes to promote parent and child well-being through these group visits.
Another participant, Sean Fling, said she is currently at North Division High School, a predominantly African American high school, with many students in poverty.
She focuses on encouraging students to consider health careers to increase the number of minorities in the health field.
“We’re implementing a dental and health clinic in the school where students can learn CNA skills and listen to speakers in the health field talk about their careers.”
Other TRIUMPH students were Chrissy Ripp of United Community Center, Pan San Chan of Rufus King High School and Milwaukee AHEC, Ray Garcia of Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, DeMarco Bowen of Penfield Children’s Center, and Alexander Herrera of Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers.
At the end, attendees mingled and viewed posters of the projects.
“I can tell the difference between a medical school graduate and a TRIUMPH graduate,” said Mark Robinson, Aurora Family Medicine physician.
“A TRIUMPH graduate knows the difference between the term ‘health’ and the term ‘medicine.’”