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Carla Stephens

May 2017

Carla Stephens is a problem solver. For her, she wants to tackle two big problems – increase health care literacy and improve access to quality health care for all.

The magnitude of this problem became clear when Stephens interned at the Virginia Coordinated Care Program for the Uninsured through Virginia Commonwealth University, where she helped staff determine why more patients were not utilizing the program, which provides low income and vulnerable groups health care services.

“We learned that patients were not signing up because they either didn’t know how to sign up, didn’t have access to the internet or transportation, didn’t understand where they were supposed to go or the importance of preventative health care,” Stephens said.

So Stephens worked with the team to develop educational pamphlets and better health care literacy and education websites that were more user-friendly and highlighted the importance of utilizing the program.

“With our researcher we were able to figure out what services to include and remove and redesign the program,” Stephens said.

While Stephens is from Virginia, and most of her family attended Rutgers University in New Jersey, she selected Penn State because during a visit it felt like home to her.

“I chose Penn State because when I came here it felt like home,” Stephens said. “I saw that I would have access to a lot of opportunities, faculty were very warm and welcoming, and I felt like I could make a positive impact.”

In particular, Stephens felt drawn to the health policy and administration program.

“This program is the best thing that ever happened to me because it’s very supportive and the faculty are tight-knit and I have a group of mentors who are willing to help me, not only through college but also through my career,” Stephens said.

Stephens, a member of the McNair Scholars Program, is slated to complete an internship in summer 2017 at the University of Michigan where she will work with the Neighborhood Service Organization, a non-profit health center that provides services to older adults with mental illness, children and adults with developmental disabilities, and homeless recovery services.