An unconventional path to med school - Kendall College of Arts and Sciences

An unconventional path to med school

Grace Farha, B.S. Sociology 2016
FOCUS North America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Human Services Coordinator

Since August of 2016, Grace Farha has been working at FOCUS North America, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit. FOCUS is many things — resource center, health clinic, food pantry, clothing bank and more. As human services coordinator, Farha conducts initial client interviews to deter-mine how the center can best serve them. She says, “This typically means hearing a person’s story and asking questions to dissect the heart of the problem. I have found that the simple way of categorizing the most common situations I have seen is ‘poor health.’ Keep in mind, this diagnosis requires a broad definition of the term health.”

Farha explains that for some people, “health” means physical health, which makes the next step clear: help the client apply for health insurance or schedule him or her an appointment with the FOCUS Free Health Center. However, she reports that for most clients, physical health is only the beginning. Perhaps the person needs treatment for an emotional health issue; for example, their relationships with other important people in their lives might be lacking or suffering. Or, maybe the biggest issue is the client’s mental health. “How can someone be healthy when major stress is a constant and every decision has become a life or death consideration?” she notes. “Or maybe their health ailments are due to something outside their own body – a lack of affordable housing, loss of heat, under- or unemployment, living in a food dessert. The list is endless.”

Farha will attend the University of Kansas Medical School in the fall of 2017. “If I am to treat patients one day,” she says, “I had better learn now that health is more than a simple measure of vitality. During my time in Pittsburgh, I have come to see physical health as only one aspect of one’s whole being. A person’s physical health is, of course, important. However, one’s spiritual, emotional and mental health must not and cannot be ignored. To be truly healthy, each aspect of one’s health must be cared for. I hope to bring this knowledge into my future practice as a health care provider.”