WH-Champions-of-Change.JPGAmerican University of the Caribbean School of Medicine’s (AUC) new Dean of Medical Sciences is having a moment.

Earlier this week, Dr. William Owen officially started his leadership role with AUC, and three weeks ago he attended the White House Champions of Change for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) event to honor his mentee and founder of Be Jersey Strong, Dr. Aakash Shah.

Chaired by Dr. Owen, Be Jersey Strong is a student-led initiative that trains undergraduates to serve as community health workers and address health-related social needs across the state of New Jersey. During the third open enrollment period, Be Jersey Strong recruited over 500 student volunteers—two thirds of whom spoke a second language with a total of 50 languages represented—to provide outreach and enrollment assistance to thousands within the state.

This diverse approach to connect uninsured to coverage caught the attention of the White House and on March 25, 2016, Dr. Shah was named a White House Champion of Change for ACA. Ten individuals received the recognition, which fell on the six-year anniversary of ACA.

Cheering him on in the audience was Dr. Owen, who helped bring the concept for Be Jersey Strong to fruition last year. While Dr. Shah rallied and mobilized student volunteers, Dr. Owen pulled together a highly qualified Board of leaders to build credibility and movement for the initiative.

“We were tough task masters,” says Dr. Owen of the Board. “We wanted to see if this new model for community health service could work and knew that would mean quantifying and measuring our success. The end results speak for themselves.”

Reflecting on Be Jersey Strong’s success, Dr. Owen sees an externally validated model that can be replicated at AUC. With a highly motivated student body and a unique environment, students are well-positioned to bring much-needed health education and services to communities across Sint Maarten.
So what key lesson should students take away from Be Jersey Strong’s model?

“Find the outliers,” says Dr. Owen. “If you figure out why outlying individuals aren’t getting the care they need, you can create innovative systems and solutions that improve population health.”

Shannon Toher

Posted April 15, 2016 09:54 AM

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