How are UCSD Students solving global health problems with Aya Healthcare’s help?

January 31, 2022 | Aya in the Community

In this video, you’ll hear from Dr. Jose Luis Burgos and Dr. Victoria Ojeda about their work with the HFiT clinic at the U.S./Mexico border. This clinic is operated by clinicians, professors and students from both countries. They provide care for a diverse, underserved patient population. Not only do students discover a deeper appreciation for patient care and their future professions, but the research done at the clinic inspires solutions to health issues worldwide.



For those of you who’d rather read through the content (or you’re in a quiet place not conducive to video-watching) we’ve got you covered:

Poverty definitely has a significant impact on health outcomes on many levels, from being able to access healthcare, to being able to access a healthy environment, having access to quality food, having access to safe housing.

With poverty, sometimes we also see that people have a higher risk of suffering from violence. Studies show that people going through poverty have higher levels of certain hormones like cortisol that can predispose them to mental health problems, but also metabolic problems. And the research is helping to provide the evidence that there is a problem. You can’t tackle a problem if you don’t know it exists.

We, in part, try to document what are some of the public health challenges facing different communities. The Health Frontiers in Tijuana was created as a true partnership, a collaboration between our students’ organization and faculty from UCSD as well as students from UABC who wanted to take advantage of the research that was coming out of the border region that was showing global health problems or issues that were being published. And they wanted to learn about global health in a very close area.

The HFiT clinic has an important impact on the health and well-being of patients. These are very structurally vulnerable patients that are oftentimes excluded from community services. They’re not able to access them because of stigma, discrimination and structural barriers like lack of identification and lack of health insurance coverage. The HFiT clinic really serves as a safety net for this really wide array of patients, from U.S. nationals to migrants to deportees to other refugees, asylum seekers, veterans from the U.S., military services, transgender individuals and persons that are living with HIV or at risk of HIV.

The clinic provides not only primary care but tries to provide —as much as possible — mental health services utilization by supporting psychological services at the clinic.

The students play a very important role in the clinic. The clinic was created as a hub for providing needed services for very vulnerable populations by the U.S/Mexican border, but also as a hub for experiential learning and global health. The nuts and bolts of the clinic are our students. The students that are interested in joining the clinic are interested in health professions, including nursing, medicine, psychology, social work, dentistry and other allied health professions as well.

One of the nice contributions from the students is that they’re able to bring in their passions to the clinic and create new programing. For example, we had a student recently that was very passionate about bringing mindfulness and meditation to refugees and patients that are coming through the clinic. In order to have better outcomes, it’s not only providing medication or providing clinical intervention, but having the patient learn about how to take care of themselves. Learning how to navigate the very complicated health system that we have on both sides of the border, especially for migrants, is a very important service. Learning helps them improve their health and prevents adverse health outcomes.

One of the really interesting points that we have learned is some of the patients we see at the HFiT clinic have had residencies throughout the United States. I mean, it’s not concentrated — let’s say just in California, just on the West Coast. We’ve had people that have lived in the South and on the East Coast and all around the U.S.. And really, what we are talking about is a shared patient population so that the more that we do on the U.S. side to care for structurally vulnerable populations, for those that are uninsured or that have barriers to accessing health care, the more beneficial effects we will have in terms of improving health in both countries.

In the HFiT clinic, to the extent that we can, we try to integrate as many disciplines as possible so that it’s a one stop shop for the patients. They’re getting integrated care where doctors are able to communicate with each other to provide the best possible care.

Aya has been a tremendous help for us to provide additional services that are not being provided currently to people that do not have any insurance and to migrants. We’re able to promote healthy communities.

To be more concretely specific, we were able to purchase an ultrasound. Again, these are communities that are forgoing using maternal and child health services, you know, prenatal care. And we know that that’s not a good situation for moms to be. Through this contribution, we’re able to meet that gap in service. Thanks to the help from Aya, we’re going to be able to provide this service and be able to prevent issues— from either not identifying a severe case and having a bad outcome, or identifying a severe case and not overwhelming the health systems or hospitals.

I think it’s a tremendous asset to the region and to, you know, both countries, really. There’s a story behind every person that’s coming to the clinic, and I think that humanization, that’s an important piece of it.

The other piece that we tackle academically is that clinical activities are complimented and supplemented with coursework at both universities. We can help to destigmatize through the education of the students. But we’re also educating community members at the same time through the work that we’re doing. Then we can change a perspective of the community, patients and our students and future professionals to think as a clinician, to think as a health promoter. To think, “How do I link people to the care they need?”

You know, we’re looking at this as a case study, but the issues that we see, we know are not limited to this region but affect many communities around the world. And perhaps we can help to come up with creative and innovative solutions to those problems that we can share with other communities.

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