Social work student helps forge partnership to benefit children in need of complex medical care

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A Virginia Commonwealth University student helped facilitate the early stages of a partnership between two nonprofit organizations that will help children from developing countries get lifesaving medical procedures at hospitals in the United States.

Allie Bashkoff, a senior in VCU's School of Social Work, has been working as part of a field placement at World Pediatric Project, which sends pediatric specialists to provide care for children in developing countries in the Caribbean and Central America and also hosts children in need of complex care who are transported to U.S. and advanced regional medical facilities.

As part of her field placement, Bashkoff was asked to help research whether or not another nonprofit organization would be willing to partner with World Pediatric Project to provide transportation to bring seriously ill children to the U.S. for treatment.

"We were having to pay for flights for kids out-of-pocket, so we were trying to find a new organization that we could partner with," Bashkoff said.

Bashkoff took part in a research effort to find a nonprofit partner, and contacted Las Vegas-based organization Miracle Flights for Kids, which provides flights to children in the U.S. so they can receive life-altering, lifesaving medical care and second opinions from experts and specialists throughout the United States. Bashkoff's message and persistence led to a meeting with World Pediatric Project and the beginnings of a partnership.

"Allie initiated communication with the Miracle Flights for Kids program," said Patrick Nicolas, patient care coordinator for World Pediatric Project and Bashkoff's field instructor. "Her professional communication and persistence caught the attention of their CEO, and ours too, which led to Miracle Flight for Kids contacting World Pediatric Project to explore a partnership."

"The potential partnership is still in its very early stages but will hopefully meet a need all families who travel to Richmond and our partners' cities have, which is transportation to and from home," he added.

Bashkoff said she was proud to have played a role in putting the organizations together, as it means that children will receive the medical care they need.

"I feel like it was a big accomplishment that VCU helped me do, because they connected me with World Pediatric Project and we were then able to formulate a partnership," she said.

Beyond her work in helping to facilitate the partnership, Bashkoff's work at World Pediatric Project has involved case management and social support, helping to meet the daily needs of families of children who have traveled to Richmond for medical treatment.

"Specifically, those needs Allie help meet are ensuring that the refrigerator and cupboards were stocked on their floor of the Hospital Hospitality House, ensuring patients are able to communicate with families back home, and providing a thorough orientation for patients upon arrival so that they have clear expectations," Nicolas said. "She also provides support to patients' guardians, often their mom, as they wait during surgery days and accompanies patients and guardians to medical appointments."

Bashkoff, who is from Newport News, is set to graduate this spring. In the fall, she will begin pursuing a master's degree in social work from New York University.


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