Recent Hamilton graduate Caitlyn Williams ’11 is thrilled to be entering into a position with the Community HealthCorps Program, a division of AmeriCorps later this summer as a school-based health center coordinator. Williams will be working with Open Door Family Medical Center in the medically underserved community of Port Chester, New York.
Open Door, a healthcare provider located in Westchester County, New York, provides services for more than 40,000 patients annually, many of whom are economically disadvantaged. The organization operates four small scale hospital facilities in the area and also provides primary care—physicals, immunizations, wellness, management of chronic illnesses—to underprivileged children who have few, if any, alternative sources of healthcare.
Williams will be working in conjunction with Open Door in the development and implementation of a health education curriculum for the public school district in Port Chester. More than half of the children in Open Door’s target demographic are overweight or obese, so health education is particularly important. Williams will be working with four other school-based health center coordinators at nearby school districts to plan community events and educational workshops for parents, and she will also work independently on the curriculum specific to the Port Chester district. She has the autonomy to develop a flexible curriculum based on her individual interests and areas of specific concern, and hopes to design several training sessions in first-aid for parents, drawing on her experience as a volunteer for Hamilton College Emergency Medical Services.
A neuroscience major, Williams has tentative plans to enter medical school in the future with a focus in pediatrics or pediatric neurology. “I loved my work at Hamilton as a neuroscience major,” she said, “and I can’t imagine having done anything else.” She came into Hamilton with a passion for biology and psychology. By the end of her first year, having taken Brain and Behavior with Professor of Psychology Douglas Weldon, she knew that neuroscience was right for her.
“This major prepared me for medicine by challenging me to think critically and analytically, by providing me with the framework to research methodically and thoroughly and by inspiring me to work hard at everything I set my mind to,” Williams said. “It also taught me that when you find something you love, you just know it, and it's the right thing to do.”
Having had her heart set on neuroscience for years, Williams gained a wealth of experience in the field during her time at Hamilton. She performed research with Mount Sinai’s endocrinology department in the summer of 2008, and with the neuroscience department at Columbia University in the summer of 2009. In 2010, she worked with Dr. Bruce Dobkin ’69, a Hamilton alumnus, in the neurology department at UCLA, tending to patients with Parkinson’s disease and patients in need of stroke rehabilitation. Williams found working directly with patients to be such a rewarding experience that she decided to take a year off before medical school to work directly with a community. The internship also inspired her to pursue a thesis investigating a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease with Professor of Biology David Gapp.
Williams’ position with Open Door is part of a Community HealthCorps Program. Founded in 1995 by the National Association of Community Health Centers, Community HealthCorps is the largest health-focused, that, according to its website, “promotes health care for America’s underserved, while developing tomorrow’s health care workforce.”
Williams said that the Career Center played a pivotal role in connecting her with the job. She worked with Associate Director of the Career Center Leslie Bell as a career counselor and with Leslie North, the coordinator of health professions advising, as a pre-medical advisor. North put Williams in touch with Amy Rumack ’09 and Elizabeth Wahl ’10, two Hamilton alumni who worked in HealthCorps in the past, and she began to look for positions in areas of the country in which she knew she wanted to work. Williams attended several informational interviews in the fall, interviewed for the position first in December and then again over spring break, and was offered the position in late March.
On campus, Williams was a class representative on Student Assembly for four years, serving as the chair of the social traditions committee, and was the secretary/treasurer of Psi Chip, the international honors society in Psychology. She was a T.A. for psych stats, and a member of Hamilton Alumni Leadership Training (HALT) and the senior gift committee. She is also an avid runner and plans to spend time during the following year training for a marathon.
On a whim, Williams says she took the Seminar on Happiness class last semester with Richard Werner, the John Stewart Kennedy Professor of Philosophy. The class ended up being one of the best classes she had taken at Hamilton. “This class made me think differently about the world around me every day and was a completely different way of thinking than my scientific mind usually works,” she said. “What I took away from this class was that happiness can take many forms, and we have to constantly keep challenging ourselves to find what our individual happiness is. I am excited to see the challenges that this next year brings me.”
Caitlyn Williams is a graduate of Mamaroneck High School in New York.