Professor works to foster a spirit of service in her students
Riverside, Calif. (August 3, 2017) — Jennifer Zamora has been serving others as long as she can remember. Wrapping Christmas gifts, holding car washes and doing beach cleanup with her church youth group brought a warm feeling to her life and helped her forget about a difficult personal life.
“[Helping] was a way to escape the negativity I was going through at the time,” said Zamora, assistant professor of physician assistant studies at California Baptist University. “Not focusing on my problems and helping other people felt good to me.”
The concept of experiencing joy through service has stayed with Zamora through her development into a professional. As an instructor at CBU, she sees service in the community as a way of putting her Christian faith into action.
“We want our students [at CBU] to serve the community and be the hands and feet of Jesus,” Zamora said. “I hope our students develop a passion to serve the underserved.”
Through the years, Zamora’s heart for service has led her to various servant roles.
While working on her Master of Physician Assistant Practice degree at the University of Southern California, she did volunteer work including organizing a bone marrow registration drive. She also worked in a clinic in Uganda for 2½ weeks. Later, she helped in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010.
“I had that moment in Africa, [thinking] what can I do for my community that I don’t have to travel across the world to do?” Zamora said.
After discussing the ideas with other students, she started a free health clinic in 2008 at her home church in Corona, California. Initially, the care she provided with two other pre-med students was basic: they offered health education and checked blood pressure and blood sugar.
But Zamora wanted to meet more needs, so she developed a collaboration with Health to Hope Clinics, federally qualified health centers that serve homeless and vulnerable individuals and families in Riverside County. Health to Hope provided a mobile unit and now patients can also have blood work screened and get a physical exam from head to toe. When serious health issues are detected, patients are referred elsewhere. The clinic also helps patients to determine what insurance they qualify for and then assists them with the paperwork.
Up to 20 volunteers including students from CBU help at the monthly clinic. The volunteers see 10 to 30 patients on any given Saturday, but Zamora said it isn’t about the numbers.
“It’s sometimes that one or two individuals who really needed help that day,” Zamora said.
“I’m trying to teach that to my students —even though you’re stressed and busy, there is so much we can still do for our community,” she said. “We can go into a nearby community and affect a different culture and a different neighborhood.”
Community service is required in CBU’s physician assistant program. The free clinic organized by Zamora provides the students an opportunity to interact with patients, make clinical judgments and serve others.
“I feel if you get them passionate about practicing now, it’s easier to do when they’re a health care provider,” Zamora said.