Person in blue sweatshirt holding book that says Leo can swim / Leo puede nadar

Why Public Health AmeriCorps Member Geralda Francois Is Committed to Her Community’s Health

When Zufall AmeriCorps member Geralda Francois was 15 years old, her life was upended by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti. Considered one of the biggest natural disasters in recorded history, the 2010 earthquake claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Francois remembers that for the millions of survivors, the public health impact was devastating.

“Before the earthquake, most people couldn’t get adequate health care, unless they were very wealthy or left the country,” Francois says. “The disaster made things even worse and overwhelmed Haiti’s already fragile health infrastructure.”

Francois feels fortunate that she and her family were able to relocate to the U.S. one month after the earthquake struck. However, her experiences, coupled with ongoing health disparities in Haiti, have driven her commitment to public health. Today, as a Public Health AmeriCorps member serving with Zufall’s Pediatrics Department, Francois supports access to high-quality health care for kids with experiences akin to her own. Many pediatric patients have similarly endured displacement from their home countries and resettlement in the U.S., trauma, and limited access to care.

Based at Zufall Health – Dover and supervised by Pediatrician Amy Kotler, MD, Francois appreciates being able to make a positive difference in patients’ lives. Much of her service entails identifying and engaging with eligible patients for large-scale health outreach events. Recently, she organized an asthma clinic where children aged 7 to 11 and their families received education on proper inhaler usage and oral health. Francois later plans to lead events focusing on adolescent health and vaccinations for infants and toddlers.

“Our health fair-style events play a vital role in raising awareness, providing education, and efficiently delivering services to a specific segment of our patient population. The events also help us build trust with our community,” Francois says.

Francois, who is a trilingual (English, French, and Haitian Creole) speaker is also involved in supporting Zufall’s partnership with Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit organization that encourages early literacy through relationships with pediatric providers. Reading or being read to regularly stimulates cognitive development in babies and children and enhances skills needed for communication and academic success.

In the future, Francois hopes to apply her Zufall Public Health AmeriCorps experience to a career in a hospital in an undeserved community. Prior to joining Zufall, Francois completed an AmeriCorps service term with Family Connections, a social services nonprofit based in East Orange. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public health from Montclair State University and plans to next complete a dual master’s in public health/master’s in business administration degree.

Above: Francois holds a bilingual English-Spanish children’s book for Reach Out and Read.

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