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Medical student compiles community resource guide

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Michael Apostol, right, a University of New Mexico medical student from Roswell, and Joann Palomino, health promotion educator with the New Mexico Department of Health, show copies of the local community health resource guide Apostol compiled as part of his studies. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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A new resource guide aims to help Roswell’s medical community provide better help for patients.

“Roswell Health: A Compilation of Community Health Resources” is a project of Michael Apostol, a second-year medical student at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Apostol moved to Roswell at the age of 2 when he and his parents immigrated from the Philippines.

“I kind of wanted to be a doctor for a long time just because both of my parents were nurses from the Philippines. Looking at my mom and how she helped people growing up really made me want to go into the medical field,” he said.

He was valedictorian of his class at Goddard High School and a National Merit Scholar, and graduated summa cum laude at UNM before entering medical school through UNM’s combined BA/MD program.

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Over the summer, he was back in Roswell for six weeks of clinical rotations, but he also had to complete a community project as part of the practical immersion experience that is part of his studies.

“The community project can be anything, but essentially it’s supposed to be some initiative that you can start in the community while you’re there,” he said.

Apostol met with staff at the New Mexico Department of Health southeast region office in Roswell — Director Jimmy Masters and Health Promotion Educator Joann Palomino. Through them, he learned of the different services the health department offers.

“He told me about all these different things that are going on in Roswell that it seems like not a lot of the health community and just people in general don’t know about,” Apostol said.

“When they think of the Department of Health, they think about your yearly flu shot, your immunizations, that’s all we know about. But they have all sorts of things like chronic disease, substance abuse and mental health resources that would be really helpful for a lot of people in the community,” he said.

Apostol began compiling information on those resources to put together in a booklet. During the day, he would work his clinical rotation with Dr. Gabriele Stiller. After hours and on his days off he’d work on the resource guide.

“It took about the whole six weeks of me being here to finish it,” he said.

“People at the DOH like Mrs. Palomino were a big help because they have their own initiatives and resources that they already have on file, but I also had to call a lot of members and leaders of the community like the Chaves County Health Council, which was a really big help,” he said.

The health department printed 150 copies of the 20 pages — front and back — that Apostol compiled, and he put them together and stapled each one himself.

Apostol and Palomino are working with a local printer to produce more copies.

The resource guide includes information on free NMDOH programs including workshops to help people with diabetes, cancer, chronic pain and HIV. It also lists meeting times and places for Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery groups. It lists resources for suicide prevention, mental health services, faith-based services and community services such as food pantries, domestic violence shelters, and groups that assist children and families.

Palomino said it’s the first time that a guide such as this has been put together in Roswell.

“Michael asked how do you get the word out that these classes and resources are here. It’s word of mouth,” she said. She said she and Angie Barnes of the health department’s Children’s Medical Services visit each doctor and hospital to let them know of what classes are available.

She said the guide will especially be helpful because many of the programs NMDOH offered were halted due to the pandemic.

“But we want to reach out to our community because the chronic diseases — diabetes, obesity, substance abuse — is still out there. We’ve still got to take care of that for our community,” Palomino said.

Apostol said he found that not all doctors in Roswell were familiar with the community’s resources, sometimes learning about them from their patients who had enrolled.

“So I made this first of all for physicians so they know what resources they can refer their patients to, and secondly, if they recognize a patient who would benefit from it, they can hand them out or if we make more copies they can just put them in the waiting room,” he said.

The resource guide has already been beneficial, Apostol said.

“One doctor told me that she had an alcoholic patient who was really excited to find out there is an AA meeting every single day of the week,” he said.

The guide has even gotten recognition from NMDOH in its internal communications, Palomino said.

Apostol said he hopes to make the guide an annual publication and included an email address and phone number that providers and organizations can contact to be included in future editions.

“There’s a couple of people in the community who want to help, too,” he said. “I can already see even if I graduate from medical school and don’t end up staying at UNM for residency, there will be someone else to sort of carry the torch.”

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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