Victor Ke

Victor Ke

Class of 2023

Internship: International Rescue Committee, Baltimore, MD

Briefly describe what you did for your Applied Experience and any highlights.

The main goal of the Intensive Case Management Program at the IRC was to aid more vulnerable clients, refugees and asylees who required more assistance than other clients, in their resettlement process with the aim to help these clients reach self-sufficiency. Throughout my time with the organization I was tasked with assisting clients in day to day living and navigating various US intuitions. This had me doing anything from contacting lawyers to offer pro-bono services for our clients, applying for SNAP and other public benefits programs, offering translation services for Spanish speaking clients, arranging transportation, and contacting health care providers for services just to name a few.

I can’t really think of major highlights during my time at the IRC, however working there was absolutely wonderful. I whole heartedly believe that it was one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences in my life thus far. I remember talking to one of my friends about how much I was enjoying my time there, and how getting to do work directly with and in service to those who truly need and benefit from the work you do, and getting to see them reap the benefits of it, was just a positive feedback loop that made me want to work harder and harder for both these clients and myself to succeed. I built so many great professional relationships with our clients and learned so many skills that I never thought I would have had to develop otherwise. All of the clients I worked with were always so grateful and excited to speak with us, I do not think I have felt so appreciated to that extent before. 

How has your experience informed your understanding of public health?

I think my experience really was just various case studies of much of what I have already learned about public health, especially the more sociological side of the field. The main aspect I’d like to focus on was how complex and unintuitive navigating the public benefit system can be in the United States, especially for non-English speakers. There was a week where we had realized many of our clients SNAP benefits were expiring and since many of the clients did not speak English and were receiving letters in English about their benefits expiring, nor did they know how to navigate the system online, many clients had their benefits cut without them even realizing. I was tasked to go into these clients’ online myDHR account or create an account for them and begin a whole new application from scratch. My supervisor walked me through initially, but when I was left to do it on my own I really struggled. Eventually I was able to get the hang of it and knock out application after application, but if I did not have the guidance of my supervisors or if I was directly feeling the impact of having my benefits cut, I could only imagine how difficult a position I would be in. In many public health courses, we have discussed various health disparities and discussed the benefits of Medicaid, food stamps, SSI, etc., however what is lacking is how difficult it can be to access these resources and best utilize them. I once waited on hold with social security for over two hours one day. Had I been in the position that my clients were in, having to work full time and take care of their kids in a new foreign country there would be no way for me to be able to fully take advantage of these benefits without substantial help. 

How do you think your time at JHU prepared you for this work?

What I appreciate about studying Public Health at Hopkins stretches beyond the courses I’ve taken. Obviously courses here have helped build my foundational knowledge of the field and introduced me to topics that I previously and otherwise would not have known about, however I think it’s the community of people here which really prepared me for this work. Getting to know more people of unique backgrounds, upbringings, and values, gaining perspectives on an array of topics from rich discussions with both faculty and classmates, and overall being part of a community that shows love and true care for its students, which can sometimes be rare at Hopkins, have all helped me construct a frame of mind geared for public health work. I think it’s this perspective, enriched by those around me, that allowed me to handle each dynamic situation as it arose and to lean on what I have learned from others to find ways to solve each situation in a manner catered to its specific needs.