Sometimes all it takes is ‘a simple fix’ – Local grad presents research at New Orleans conference

By Sara Hill

Madeline VanHorn, a 2019 graduate of Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School, will soon have the opportunity to present her research at the Health Disparities Conference in New Orleans.

VanHorn, who earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Bowling Green State University in 2021, plans to share the insight she gained while completing her capstone project to achieve her master’s degree in health services administration.

At the suggestion of a professor active in aiding the CommunityCare Free Medical Clinic, a university-sponsored, student-run, volunteer-driven clinic offering free healthcare to the underinsured and uninsured of greater Toledo, VanHorn met with clinic leadership to discuss her passion for nutrition and its impact on personal health.

For her capstone research, she was curious to learn how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted nutrition resources at the free clinic, as well as the nutrition habits of patients. Named 2022 Free Clinic of the Year by Charitable Healthcare Network, the CommunityCare Free Medical Clinic offers shelf-stable food, to-go meals, nutritional counseling, fresh food delivery, food pharmacy referrals for those with food insecurity and/or health conditions that require special diets, among other services like comprehensive primary care and diabetes education. It is open every Thursday evening.

“During Covid, many sat at home, ate a lot, and I was interested in understanding how this impacted the patients there. Their patient population is extremely diverse and many lack the resources to get food,” VanHorn said. “Toledo is a food desert where residents have very few options for affordable and nutritional food within convenient driving distance. I interviewed the clinic staff, not the patients, because I want to do the administrative role of healthcare. If I can help the staff then I can help the patients.

“The staff reported that the pandemic really had changed eating habits but they were unsure of its impact on managing their health conditions. I learned there was a general lack of knowledge of what resources are offered. Covid took away many resources and there was a huge lack of knowledge about patient health habits and nutrition. My solution was the distribution of an info sheet to all staff and to patients as well.”

The simple fix proved to be the backbone of the presentation she will deliver in New Orleans Feb. 22-24, where this year’s conference will focus on “Public Health Transformations to Achieve Health Equity.”

“I never thought I would enjoy research, but learning about the gaps in the clinic and finding solutions was really great,” she said. There is so much good that can come from a simple fix.”

VanHorn, who participated in Student Council, National Honor Society, basketball and H.U.D.D.L.E while at BBHHS, and the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, hall council, the Midwest chapter of Healthcare Executives, and a graduate assistant during her time at BGSU, said she hopes to one day be president of a hospital. Until then, she’s exploring career options as an health administrator or director.

The field covers a wide scope of duties including managing healthcare staff, ensuring protocols are followed and equipment is up-to-date, managing budgets, compliance and heading up professional development, among other facets, VanHorn said. ∞

For her capstone research project at Bowling Green State Univrsity, Madeline VanHorn was curious to learn how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted nutrition resources at the free clinic, as well as the nutrition habits of patients. Photo submitted.