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Alumni Spotlight: Jill Gravley (MSCEM ’20)

Furman Master of Science in Community Engaged Medicine Alum and Greenville County Paramedic Jill Gravley (’20) talked about her interest in community health an experiences in Furman’s MSCEM Program.

When did you first become interested in pursuing healthcare as a field?

When I was younger, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia. So I was kind of interested in basically the prognosis of that. And what it was I kind of was a little bit too young to understand that grandma is going to forget who I was, and it was totally going to change our lives. So I was really interested in not only the disease process of this neuro-cognitive disease, but all disease pathways, and how these detrimental diseases really affect our families and how we go on with our lives and how medicine will continue to evolve to really try to fix these disorders.

Can you talk about how you have approached mental health in your position as an EMS?

Absolutely. More often than not, our patient population doesn’t have acute critical issues. It’s not all life or death situations. Of course, that’s a major part of our job. But a lot of the times people don’t have the resources to go to a primary care provider or get mental health services. And so we’re going into these people’s lives like a snapshot of how they live and it’s less than ideal in most cases. So these houses may not have air conditioning or might have a family of six just to a bedroom of one, or financial barriers that caused food insecurity. There so many issues that really affect everyone’s wellbeing and mental health. And that all kind of combines together to really make people sick.

So part of my job is to talk to these people and say, ‘Okay, well what’s going on today?’ Is it specifically depression? Or maybe mental health is an underlying condition that’s really exacerbating your physical condition in this moment? Being that shoulder to cry on when they need it or to hold their hand and be that reassurance and their real advocate is a main part of my job, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic, where resources are limited, and we’re all kind of social isolating and quarantining. So it kind of really adds a whole new level to how people are dealing with their mental health.

What would you say to those considering enrolling in the Community Engaged Medicine Program?

I would totally recommend it! It’s a great program where you become really well rounded not only in biomedical sciences, population health in so many different facets, and you really learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. And it’s hard to become vulnerable and tell your story but you can really become vulnerable and learn not only from yourself, but also your other peers and teachers and your fieldwork experience by really kind of realizing who you are as a person and what you care about. And also kind of seeing what your next steps are. So it’s a great program. I highly recommend it to everyone I learned so much and I’ll take all of it with me in my next steps to becoming a doctor.