Late one night in 2014, Daphne Owen was on a red-eye to Chicago when she heard someone scream. The plane had been in the air for only a few minutes when a flight attendant shouted for help. A passenger had suddenly fallen ill and a doctor was needed right away.
Daphne was in medical school at the time and wrestled with speaking up. “Can I really make a difference in this crisis?” she thought.
No one answered so Daphne stepped up – and it was just the beginning of her calling to service.
Four years later, she’s now a resident at Penn Medicine and oversees medical operations at Puentes de Salud (Puentes), a health and wellness center that serves Philadelphia’s Latino immigrant population. She’s also the honoree for this year’s Next Generation Leader Award, which recognizes a woman under 35 who has not only accomplished exemplary professional success but also shares a deep commitment to give, advocate and volunteer.
Educating the next generation
Daphne has been a dedicated volunteer at Puentes since 2009, and it’s her commitment to service that has helped to identify critical needs that go beyond day-to-day medical treatment.
“A lot of the parents of the families we serve were concerned about their children receiving a quality education,” she said.
So while volunteering, Daphne developed best practices for the organization’s after-school education and reading enrichment programs. And despite very limited resources, Daphne has successfully expanded the program from 12 to 57 students in just three years.
“Education and literacy are so important for community health,” she said. “Social determinants like poverty and education have a direct effect on the overall health of a community.”
Daphne and the staff of Puentes de Salud were featured in a recent HBO documentary "Clinique de Migrantes" which highlights the challenges of America's undocumented immigrant population.
The program has grown to include summer reading enrichment, a parent support network, in-class kindergarten teacher support, an adolescent girl’s empowerment group, a computer coding group and bilingual kindergarten classes. With these initiatives, Puentes de Salud is now formally recognized by the School District of Philadelphia as a community partner, serving more than 120 Latino children and families.
“[The students] are the next generation of workers that we have in Philadelphia,” said Daphne. “It’s in the interest of the community to make sure they get a quality education and move ahead in the workforce to become the next generation of nurses, doctors and teachers.”
Paint the fence
Daphne is also a huge advocate for service and helps other doctors and nurses to become active and engaged members of their communities. She helps employ groups of Penn Medicine students volunteering at Puentes to carry forth the legacy of youth supporting their communities.
“It’s important to be present with our community members, not just for big events, but for the day-to-day moments,” she said. “If you want people to believe in your mission and you want them to come help paint the fence, you have to be on the ground doing the work.”
For now, Daphne said, she’s still learning and looking for more opportunities to continue to lead and educate the next generation of doctors and medical professionals from all communities in the region.
“Sometimes it’s hard in this field to take a step back and look at the work one does and admire it,” she said. “I still need teaching and coaching, but I want to be a leader in the work that I do. There’s a lot of work for me left to do here.”
Women United is proud to celebrate Daphne, all that she does for her community and all that she will do in the future. Join us on March 21 at the 2018 Women United Gala as we celebrate Daphne and other incredible women who are making a difference in our community.