North Omaha Area Health
Ira Coombs, a nurse and instructor in the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska, scrapes together grants and donations to keep the doors open, hoping to bring small doses of health and hope to the ‘hood’ as he puts it. Ira grew up in the hood and he knows how it operates. He uses his insider understanding to craft creative solutions that entice young people away from the cycles of poverty and violence, toward a more positive future. NOAH offers 9-week internships for adolescents and young adults interested in health careers. Ira teaches public health classes and instills vision. The kids learn about possibilities and pathways to a different future. Some will become clinic assistants and maybe one or two will make it through nursing or medical school. All of them grow and learn. In addition to the internship program, NOAH offers a course called CPR in The Hood or Ghetto First Aid. Kids learn very basic CPR and first aid…..how to save a friend or family member’s life. He instills in them that they now have an obligation to act once they’ve been trained.
I asked Ira what happens when NOAH picks up signs of serious illness and the patient needs to be seen by a specialist. “Do you have a certain physician group that takes your referrals? ” I wonder. His answer was very straightforward: “We call the ones we know will say yes, and we keep calling until we find the answer we need.”
Perseverance, patience, vision, hope, health promotion…..on a slim budget. These are the hallmarks of NOAH and the foundation for improving health one patient at a time.