Rhodes Students and Alumni Strive to Improve Health Care in Memphis Through Church Health Internships

two diverse males standing and smiling together
Rahul Peravali and Tyler Harvey

Rhodes provides students with many opportunities to explore the different areas of health care through partnerships in the city. One partner in particular, Church Health, has grown from providing services to low income families out of a house on Peabody Avenue to encompassing 13 facilities across Memphis, and will soon move into a new home in Crosstown Concourse. The organization takes a holistic approach to health care, which enabled Church Health interns and Rhodes seniors Rahul Peravali and Tyler Harvey to gain experience with programs ranging from clinical services to wellness and nutrition education. 

Peravali, a native Memphian and neuroscience major, was a Child Life and Wellness intern last fall. In this role, he helped to promote healthy lifestyle choices among the youth at Church Health by engaging them in nutrition and science classes as well as activities such as yoga while their parents used the workout center. At Church Health, families with low incomes are able to exercise in a fully equipped gym as part of a “pay what you can” initiative. 

Although the programs were structured to give the youth a sense of routine, Peravali designed and incorporated some of his own lessons and activities, such as jogging and light exercises with weights. He also worked with the youth on planning out their own health goals, such as watching less television and increasing physical activity or interaction with family members. 

Peravali, who is considering studying pediatric medicine after graduating from Rhodes, plans to remain involved with Church Health.  “I foresee it being a long-term investment for me, especially as I consider going to medical school in Memphis,” he says.

Harvey, who is from Greenville, SC, is majoring in urban studies with a focus on community health and has been working at Church Health as a Service Scholar through the Bonner Program since his sophomore year. As the Healthcare and Quality Improvement intern, he observes doctor-patient interactions and determines best practices for quality enhancement, such as finding ways to lower patient wait times. 

For some projects, he deals directly with patients by taking surveys and making phone calls to get a detailed account of their visit, including asking about their satisfaction with the service and about any barriers that prevent them from receiving quality health care. He works to translate that data into in-house solutions such as improving scheduling and updating medical charting systems. “We try to think of solutions that not only improve the delivery of care, but also ensure that quality does not decline," says Harvey. 

Harvey says he also has the freedom to do his own research, where he can explore technical quality care as well as determine the non-profit sector’s role in providing health care to marginalized groups, which is the focus of his senior capstone project for urban studies.

Harvey’s time at Church Health has been under the mentorship and supervision of Rhodes alumna and Bonner Program graduate Jenny Bartlett-Prescott. Her involvement with Church Health also began during her studies at Rhodes when she was introduced to its founder, Dr. Scott Morris, at a career services event. Two weeks after her graduation, she went to work for Church Health and now is senior director of Integrated Health Programs. 

Outside of internships, students enrolled in Professor Marsha Walton’s Infant & Child Development course at Rhodes volunteer at Church Health on a weekly basis. In addition, many Rhodes alumni participate in the Church Health Scholars program, which is a one-year, service learning fellowship for recent four-year college graduates interested in serving underserved populations and exploring the intersection of faith and health. As Church Health prepares to move into the newly renovated Crosstown Concourse, Bartlett-Prescott hopes to see an increase in the long-term involvement of Rhodes students with the organization, as well as the continuation of the long-standing internships and course-based partnerships with the college.

By Lizzie Choy ’17