A six-week internship at the Siloam Family Health Center in Nashville, Tenn., was so extraordinary for a Westfield fellow, it determined his future profession.
Elias Manzella, a Westfield Academy & Central School graduate, is currently attending Houghton College and he has his eye on becoming a physician assistant. His aspiration has become a reality. Shortly after graduation in May, he will begin a recently accepted seat in a 27-month physician assistant graduate program at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville.
Siloam is a strange name for a clinic, Elias says, so finding out its meaning was one of his objectives during his stay in Nashville as a member of the Community Health Immersion. Now, when he is asked the meaning, his reply seems straightforward, "Siloam may be found in the Bible at John 9:7.
"This explanation finds Jesus telling a blind man since birth to wash in the pool of Siloam (which is translated Sent)."
As Elias began fulfilling his internship, his aspiration in life began to form. A private, nonprofit health center, Siloam serves immigrant and refugee people who are uninsured. Founded in the late 1980s, it recently constructed a new building that contains 12 exam rooms, administrative offices and a conference room.
Only those who have no insurance are treated and receive regular check-ups. Should any applicants get insurance, they are then taken "off the list," which means another uninsured may fill that opening.
Elias further described the work at Siloam to make sure that those in need are cared for and learn about our medical system. Siloam is solely funded by donations and grants; in addition, medical equipment and medicines are donated.
There also was social life for Elias' six-week tenure with five others on a pre-med track. They lived in an apartment complex on a budget equivalent to food stamps. Saturday night was the best night of the week, he recalls, because the Burmese population "accepted us in their church." Although only five spoke English, "It was a fun night. I really enjoyed our time with them because of the cross-culture exposure and how their passion for Jesus strengthened my own. Even though we couldn't understand what they were saying or singing, the joy and love they showed was easily understood."
A graduate of Westfield Academy & Central School, Elias is the son of Thomas and Deanne Manzella. He now is looking forward to taking physician assistant studies.
"All in all," he says, "the experience was life-changing and gave me a greater perspective on the true essence of health care and what it means to practice medicine."
Elias' six-week internship was definitely an eye-opener. "It solidified my desire to work in this field because there are so many powerful ways you can touch a person's life."