ReServists like Sheryl Silfen make extraordinary contributions to services provided by the City of New York. For two days a week, Sheryl serves at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for their award-winning unit, the Primary Care Information Project (PCIP).
PCIP oversees a number of critical public health initiatives including the delivery and technical support of the Electronic Health Records (EHRs) program that allows primary care providers who serve in low-income communities to track their patients’ medical history electronically. Providers that have participated in PCIP activities have shown improvements in their overall quality of healthcare.
Sheryl’s diverse professional background both as a practicing OB/GYN physician and later in clinical research offers a good foundation of knowledge and experience.
“Her background in medicine and research allows her to serve in an advisory capacity and well-informed sounding board,” said her supervisor Sarah Shih, Executive Director of Program Evaluation & Planning.
“Having a fresh pair of eyes helps us find something we may have missed as well as point out potential blind spots.”
But the success of the match she said lies beyond her skills and in her enthusiasm to assist in a variety of tasks.
“Sheryl has been extremely flexible about the work we give her,” said Ms. Shih. “From mundane tasks to complex, data-driven work, she is always willing to help.”
In a unit where the average age is around 30, Ms. Shih and her colleagues do everything they can to integrate Sheryl into their team, but admits that it can be a challenge to engage a person for two-days a week. Ms. Shih said that with some planning and regular communication, they make it work extremely well. “I try to identify projects that would interest Sheryl, but we meet one-one-one monthly and she alerts me when she’s running out of things to do. “
During the past few months, Sheryl has assisted in the delivery and evaluation of PCIP’s “Health eHearts” initiative funded by the Robin Hood Foundation. The initiative rewards EHR-enabled physicians who enhance the care they provide patients by offering specific recommendations and resources to improve their cardiovascular health. These include recommending an aspirin regimen or smoking cessation services or being vigilant at identifying factors and treatment for high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Sheryl said she is enjoying her work on the “Health eHearts” project since it taps into her expertise in clinical research. She has even contributed to a report about the project that will be published later this year. “We’re looking at how many lives have been saved with this project. To me that is really exciting.”
Sheryl joined ReServe in 2007 after working at a nonprofit that provided health care services to women with disabilities and a few years after her position at Merck Research Laboratories as Associate Director of Medical Communication had ended. “I wasn’t ready to retire then I read about ReServe and I was excited,” she said. She has since completed a variety of projects through ReServe.
“You have to be completely open-minded and don’t have expectations that ‘I’m here to do this’ or be insulted to perform low-level work,” said Sheryl.
While her expertise is welcome and needed, Sheryl said she receives as much as she gives. “Every day is something a little different. It keeps me interested and I’m learning new things.”