Originally from Little Rock, Anna Kirkes’ passion for dance led her across the country and back: From a Masters degree in Dance Performance from the University of Iowa, to two years with Ballet Arkansas, to an undergraduate dance instructor at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana. While teaching dance at Centenary College, Anna was afforded an opportunity to co-teach a class for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. The experience left her “energized and inspired, watching how a community formed around the shared experience of movement and creativity!” With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, her interests began to bridge into one. She became interested in social work specifically, citing its “focus on social justice, its emphasis on the person-in-environment, [and] its acknowledgement of individual worth and dignity.” After some consultation with mental health professionals, Anna made the leap into a new direction that would land her in school once again—this time back in her home of Little Rock.
Anna spent her time in the field at Harmony Health Clinic, a free medical and dental clinic for uninsured and under-insured individuals who live or work in Pulaski County. Initially established in 2008 as a medical clinic, Harmony soon added dental and pharmacy services to better serve its clients. The clinic operates on a volunteer only basis for its medical and dental clinics, drawing a number of physicians, nurses, medical students, lab technicians, and more who donate their time and expertise. Harmony has two large fundraisers every year: the World Cheese Dip Championship in October and Bollywood in April.
At Harmony, Anna’s work varied. During Saturday medical clinics, she conducted exit interviews with patients after they see the doctor, ensured instructions were clear, prescriptions were faxed, follow up appointments were set, and other needs were met. During the week, she communicated with patients looking for medical or dental care and sometimes made referrals to other clinics or social services. The greatest joy and challenge at Harmony for Anna was “finding ways to serve the whole person, addressing not just physical health but also emotional, mental, social, and spiritual barriers and resources.”
Working with Harmony Health allowed Anna to realize the importance of collaboration in wholistic care and the range of factors and barriers that affect both physical and mental health. “Working with the clients at Harmony,” she said, “stirs in me an awareness that regardless of a future job description, I always want to look for ways to be an advocate for my clients when needed.”