|On one of his final days interning at Lowell CHC in 2019, Connor was proud to celebrate his community - and his Armenian heritage - at the Lowell Folk Festival parade. |
Connor Griffiths' interest in public health has taken him from backyard farmer to Cornell University.
And it was an internship at Lowell CHC that helped him unlock a passion for community health care.
Talking on Zoom, you don't have to look any further than the walls of Connor's childhood bedroom to know he isn't afraid to follow his own path. It's hard to miss the brightly painted baseball diamond in the background, installed by well-meaning parents hoping to instill an early love of sports.
"I never played baseball," Connor says with a laugh. But he did create a different kind of field, building his own backyard farm in Pepperell, complete with vegetable garden and free-range chickens.
When it was time to head to college, he chose Cornell, known for having one of the top Agriculture Science programs in the country. Courses in anthropology and global health helped him begin to see the world through a more human lens.
When investigating Summer internships before his Junior year, Lowell CHC caught his eye. He reached out for an internship.
"I wanted to apply what I had been learning in the classroom to a real-world setting, in a community I felt a strong connection to. Lowell Community Health Center seemed like the perfect place."
Although Connor grew up in Pepperell, both of his parents were born and raised in Lowell and he still had a lot of connections to the City. Still, when it came to the Health Center, he knew he had a lot to learn.
"It was something I had never really thought of. My only idea of a health care center was a hospital."
During his internship, Connor focused on Communications, which afforded the chance to see many of the Health Center's programs in action. He recalls watching staff members interact with patients at a dental outreach event.
"It happens in the opposite way you would expect - the Health Center is reaching out, saying 'We're here for you.' I saw health care brought to the community and how powerful that connection can be."
Connor returned to Cornell that September, even more convinced that his future was in public health. Little did he know he'd be jumping back into the field sooner than expected.
In the spring, with COVID-19 shutting down college campuses, he returned home to Pepperell, attending school remotely. With time to spare and eager to help, he took a friend's advice and applied to work as a Contact Tracer. We're not surprised he got the job. Contact Tracers inform people when they've been exposed to COVID and tell them how to keep themselves and those close to them safe.
"I was so excited that I was going to be able to do something, to make an impact, to give back in some way during this crisis."
Connor jumped in right away, adding a 40-hour work week to his academic schedule. While things were certainly hectic, he embraced his role in flattening the curve.
"It's hard to think about - that for these people I've never met, the words I said to them are making a difference," he reflects. "I'm really proud to have been a part of this effort."
As Connor prepares to head back to the role of full-time student (and rising Senior), he's more passionate than ever about the role public health will play in the future of health care - right here in Lowell and across the globe. His next step? Earning a Master's in Public Health!
"It's places like Lowell CHC that will continue to unite us as people, continuing to work toward common goals to care for our communities, and for each other."