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Ian McCurry and Marcus Henderson, 2017 Penn President's Engagement Prize winners // Rebecca Elias Abboud

Almost no policy issue has been in the national spotlight more this year than health care, but for 2017 Nursing graduates Marcus Henderson and Ian McCurry, the topic is more than just a political issue. 

Since receiving the 2017 President's Engagement Prize, Henderson and McCurry have been applying their knowledge of health care case management as they work with with the nonprofit Bethesda Project. The Bethesda Project, which operates 14 sites throughout Center City, provides care for homeless people throughout the Philadelphia area. 

While Henderson and McCurry work mainly with the Bethesda Project, they have also partnered with Greater Philadelphia Healthcare Partnership, National Nurse-Led Care Consortium, and Temple University’s Community Health Worker Training Program.

Henderson and McCurry began working with the Bethesda Project as undergraduates. In March, they won the Penn President’s Engagement Prize for their project, “Homeless Health and Nursing: Building Community Partnerships for a Healthier Future,” which outlined plans and goals for the future of health care throughout the homeless community.

“Together with the Bethesda Project what they’re doing is building a community program that will have impact right here in Philadelphia, and it will also serve as a model for other cities all around the country,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said in a statement. 

Henderson and McCurry’s goals include “enrolling at least 90 percent of Bethesda Project residents in health insurance plans, connecting at least 80 percent with primary-care providers, and at least 80 percent with mental-health-care providers.”

In addition to winning the President's Engagement Prize, Henderson and McCurry were also awarded funding from Penn’s Office of Nursing Research and have been working at the Philadelphia Social Innovations Lab

“We want to build trust with the community so that, when we get to the point where we’re starting to implement the project, we already have that rapport,” Henderson told Penn News.

As sophomores, Henderson and McCurry began working together at Penn's Center for Health Equity Research, conducting research and teaching others about health disparities. McCurry also volunteered at the Old First Reformed Church’s homeless outreach ministry, while Henderson interned with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and worked as a school nurse in a Philadelphia high school. 

Henderson and McCurry plan to implement their project by working closely with community health workers. 

"These individuals have shared life experiences with the people they’re working with,” Henderson told Penn News. “They can have a deeper and more fruitful connection than any nurse going in and preaching about what to do is going to.”