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Opening Doors

Caldwell Fellows learn valuable lessons while volunteering with local community organizations.

Molly Powell ’22 came to NC State with plans to become a biomedical engineer. Those plans started to shift, though, when she volunteered during her sophomore year at a Raleigh clinic that provides medical care for uninsured people.

It was a requirement for a class on service leadership that Powell took as a Caldwell Fellow, with students volunteering at organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and, in Powell’s case, the Open Door Clinic at Wake Urban Ministries.

Molly Powell ’22.

“We came in once a week and did a bunch of different jobs,” says Powell, who is from Advance, N.C. The fellows helped patients sign up for different services. They worked on ways to make lab results easier for patients to understand. They asked patients how the clinic could serve them better.

The experience opened Powell’s eyes to some unexpected realities, and got her thinking about a different career. “I wasn’t aware how hard so many people in my community had to work to maintain their health,” says Powell, who also worked as a summer intern at the clinic. “And then seeing how their commitment matched with the commitment of the providers, it was so inspiring. It showed me how much health care is a partnership between patients and their providers.”

I wasn’t aware how hard so many people in my community had to work to maintain their health.
Molly Powell ’22

Those are the types of lessons that Janice Odom ’94 PHD, director of the Caldwell program, hopes students glean from working with community organizations. “It puts legs to the theoretical work of service leadership,” she says.

Caldwell Fellows volunteered at Raleigh’s Open Door Clinic.

The Open Door Clinic has been the program’s longest continuous community partner. Dr. Lucy Vidal-Baretto, the clinic director, says the fellows helped in any way they could when the clinic hosted drive-through vaccination sites during the pandemic. “In 2020, we still didn’t know anything about this virus and what we needed to do to protect people,” she says. “But the Caldwell Fellows were willing to come and do whatever was needed to provide service to this community.”

As for Powell, she now plans to become a physician. She is beginning medical school at UNC this fall.

Photographs courtesy of Caldwell Fellows, Open Door Clinic

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