Your NDSJV - A Force for Good Helping Vulnerable Populations Access Healthcare

Recently, we introduced you to Kristen Lentsch ’19 and Stephen Schmit ‘19, our Thomas Dooley intern and Volker Blankenstein fellow. They have spent a year of service at health clinics in the Michiana area as a gap year before moving on to med school.

Below are updates from Kristen and Michelle Peters, VP at the St. Joseph Health Center.  Learn how our Notre Dame alumni are making a difference in our local community. Thanks for supporting the club and for making direct donations of supplies.

Update from Kristen Lentsch ’19, our Dooley Intern

This week at Sister Maura Brannick Health Center, the threat of the pandemic hit a little closer to home for many of our patients.

A store in our neighborhood had several of its employees test positive for COVID-19, and many of our patients are worried they may have been exposed.We are hoping that their tests come back negative.

SMBHC is also performing COVID-19 tests in the afternoons, which has increased the accessibility of testing for individuals in the West Side neighborhood.

We continue to see a high demand for food pantry services as more and more of our patients face layoffs: so far this month, we have provided food for 33 families. Thanks to the generous donations of several members of the Notre Dame Club, we have been able to keep food on the shelves and continue providing food pantry services to our patients. We have also been able to deliver food to those who are currently in quarantine.

To those who have donated to our pantry, all of us at the clinic are incredibly appreciative of your generosity. We could not continue providing these services without your contributions.

Thank you all, God Bless, and Go Irish!


Kristen Lentsch ‘19

Statement from Michelle Peters
VP of Community Health & Well-Being, and Foundation at Saint Joseph Health System

I have been at SJHS for 36 years and lucky enough to be present at Sister Maura Brannick Health Center (SMBHC) when the very first official Dooley was hired, Volker Blankenstein.

From the beginning Volker and all the Dooley students, played an integral part in our clinic. They functioned as a liaison with our Notre Dame student volunteers and our staff. Their roles encompassed our front area (check in / check out), registration, pharmacy pick up, and our back area (clinical), shadowing volunteer physicians as well as our medical director, working with our nurses to room patients, follow up calls and basically whatever was needed.

This role has evolved to be our on-site volunteer coordinator managing schedules of up to 45 volunteers. There have been a few Dooley interns that have returned to our area after medical school, some attended our Family Practice residency, and all have come back to volunteer at our SMBHC. I know many volunteer for the communities in which they now reside, keeping the legacy of Tom Dooley alive.

When our first Tom Dooley Intern died unexpectedly, we wanted to honor his commitment to our program. Volker Blankenstein completed his residency at SJHS's Family Medicine Center (FMC) and became a physician within our network. He also volunteered 1 to 2 shifts (as his schedule allowed) at SMBHC. His impact on all of us who knew him lives on as the Volker Blankenstein Fellowship. Modeled directly off the Dooley internship, the VB fellow is able to be a crucial member of the team at the Family Medicine Center (FMC).

In this unprecedented time, SJHS is taking the lead for our community partners in the management of our members' health. Community Health & Well-Being is ensuring all individuals screened on our COVID hotline are followed up with. Some cases as often as every 3 days to ensure they are feeling better, have resources they need, and are maintaining health guidelines related to their symptoms. Our team has delivered food, connected patients to financial resources and been a listening ear to help them through this time. SMBHC and FMC, two of our safety net clinics, are key partners in ensuring our vulnerable populations' health is being managed.

We are so grateful to the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley for their support over the past 26 years, since the inception of our Dooley internship, and of course for allowing us to continue to honor the memory of Volker Blankenstein with the VB fellowship. SJHS would not be able to care for vulnerable populations without the key roles each fellow offers for our safety net clinics.

- Michelle Peters

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