Penn Nursing graduates Marcus Henderson and Ian McCurry, 2017 President’s Engagement Prize winners, have committed themselves to changing health outcomes for the homeless.
Homeless people are uniquely vulnerable, at risk of a variety of health problems, including chronic illness, hunger, pain, and infections. While resources exist to provide homeless populations with health insurance and care, those resources don’t always make their way to the people who need them.
Nurses Marcus Henderson and Ian McCurry, graduates of Penn Nursing, have committed themselves to changing that. Since winning the 2017 Penn President’s Engagement Prize for their project, “Homeless Health and Nursing: Building Community Partnerships for a Healthier Future,” McCurry and Henderson have had their heads down, working to connect homeless people in the shelter system of the non-profit Bethesda Project with health information and care.
As their efforts unfold and they bring knowledge and resources to Philadelphia’s homeless, they’ve found that their own education has continued in the shelters and on the streets of the city.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of our project is how much we are learning from this underserved population,” Henderson says. “Hearing their personal stories, interacting with them, we’re learning so much about them and the community.”
The President’s Engagement Prizes, awarded to Penn seniors annually since 2015 by President Amy Gutmann, are supported by Trustee Judith Bollinger and William G. Bollinger, Trustee Lee Spelman Doty and George E. Doty Jr., and Emeritus Trustee James S. Riepe and Gail Petty Riepe. Winners receive as much as $100,000 to implement the project, plus a $50,000 stipend for each team member.
Henderson and McCurry didn’t apply for the President’s Engagement Prize on a whim. Their proposal is the outgrowth of years of work in the area of increasing health equity and access to health care.
Both began working at Penn Nursing’s Center for Health Equity Research since their sophomore years, performing research and organizing training sessions in health disparities.
In addition, Henderson grew his understanding of public health and community work through an internship with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and during a placement as a school nurse in a Philadelphia high school. Meanwhile, McCurry delved deeper into the health-care-access needs of underserved populations though increasing responsibilities in the Old First Reformed Church’s homeless outreach ministry.
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Recent Penn Nursing graduate Ian McCurry, Nu’17, was assigned to the largest shelter in Florida. Despite its enormity, the lead-up note stated simply, “1,200 patients, multiple medical needs, psych, chronic homeless.”