Empathy is one of the most life-affirming, essential traits of a community health worker who strives to help underserved and marginalized neighborhoods in Houston.
Serving as HEALTH-RCMI's new Community Health Worker, Evan Coleman brings that sense of empathy, enthusiasm, and joy to the forefront in her work.
Community health workers are some of the most respected front-line public health care workers in BIPOC neighborhoods since they provide a valuable bridge between the community and the neighborhood healthcare systems.
“I think community health work is crucial because ultimately we need to know the people we serve and understand the mindset of the people around us,” Coleman said.
Currently assisting with HEALTH-RCMI's COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy study, Coleman embraces her new role with a heart-centered enthusiasm. Her goal is to help coordinate and assist with the focus groups exploring the barriers behind COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the six super-neighborhoods, including Fifth Ward, Third Ward, Acres Homes, Gulfton, Greenspoint and East End.
“In helping with this study and figuring out where the hesitancy lies in being vaccinated, I feel like that can show some insight into other things, other decisions that involves people around us,” Coleman said.
Expressing a perseverance and unshakable desire to help others, Coleman has a family legacy of giving back. Evan’s father is former Texas U.S. Representative Garnet Coleman who previously served District 147 for 30 years and is a strong advocate for mental health and accessible healthcare. Her mother, Angelique Coleman has collaborated with Houston non-profit agencies which provide care to underserved teens and senior citizens. Evan’s grandfathers were Dr. Ronald Feaster and Dr. John B. Coleman, both obstetrics and gynecology physicians who served the Houston community.
“Seeing the impact that all my family members have made on the community around them has inspired me to do what I can do to help others,” Coleman said.
One of Coleman’s first community engagements was a Family Health Fair offering free health screenings in Houston’s Fifth Ward. “It was really cool that people were grabbing flyers—and saying, ‘I love to participate, and I love doing stuff like this because I want to help.’” Coleman said.
A graduate of University of St. Thomas with a B.S. in Psychology with a concentration in Philosophy, Coleman is one of those rare individuals who defy definition, expressing her work in a multi-faceted discipline that intersects with psychology, philosophy, photography, and community activism.
“There are a lot of people who are experiencing a sort of collective PTSD, and many are really scared right now,” Coleman said. “When I do go to grad school, I will research existential psychology, and my approach would be more ethics-centered.”
Photography has been a core interest for Coleman as a dedicated, experiential “student of life.”
“In 2018, I had an exhibition that was commenting on nostalgia as a cognitive distortion and also commenting on the fact that this cognitive distortion was ok,” Coleman said. “I was just starting the dialogue. As humans, we have this beautiful capacity—magical things we can do. The more we can unlock and understand what it is to be a person and live and die, the more powerful we can become.”
Coleman’s intrinsic response to community engagement is driven by a desire to get out into the community and listen to the issues that are most important to people.
“There’s this enlightenment that’s going on in the pandemic. Just being heard is extremely valuable to people right now—more than ever, since the last 30 years,” Coleman said. “So I think going out on foot is extremely valuable in that way. People want to share their true opinions on things.”
For Coleman, true investment in building a relationship with Houston communities and families is key.
“We’re asking you, the community members because we want to help you. It’s not just like—hey, we’re coming in to collect research and then moving out,” Coleman said. “I’m really happy to have a concrete way to having an avenue to connect to people. I can take it further than just having this connection. It’s not just moving on, it’s moving forward. There’s a perfect turnaround. I’m really excited to be a part of that.”
By Alison Medley
Interview Opportunities Evan Coleman
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