Most doctors who volunteer in high-poverty city schools don't have personal connections to the students or classrooms, but for one young pediatrician in the South Bronx, returning to P.S. 18 is as personal as it gets. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Dr. Daniel Olivero grew up in public housing in the South Bronx. He was born in Lincoln Hospital, home to one of the busiest emergency rooms in America, and he went to P.S. 18, where just 7 percent of students read at or above grade level.
It's the kind of place where those who beat the odds are relieved to escape. But that's not how Dr. Olivero sees it.
"To come back home, it was basically a no-brainer. I mean, everybody wants to go back to where they came from," he says. "I was very fortunate enough to get the position. It was just a dream come true."
It's not just Lincoln Hospital that he's returned to. Olivero, a single father of three, is raising his children in the neighborhood. That means that when he joins his colleagues in volunteering at P.S. 18, he can spend some extra time with his youngest son, Moses.
"I feel good because my dad came, and I was excited that he was teaching me more about eating healthy," Moses said.
The doctors are teaching an eight-week course called the "Family Health Challenge," telling the children how they can eat better. The South Bronx has one of the highest rates of obesity in the country, and many residents are plagued by chronic health issues with little access to good care.
"Mainly, you're expected either to go to jail or to die. But through hard work, you can see that you can become anything you like to be," Olivero said. "And what we'd like to do is not only show the children that they have a future of anything that they'd like, but also, we would like them to actually enjoy that future by having healthy lifestyle."
The program also tries to help students feel more connected to the pediatricians.
"They're used to interacting with doctors when they're sick or when they need vaccinations," said Alyssa Ruiz of the program's committee of interns and residents. "Having a doctor in the classroom allows them to ask the doctor questions."
And in the case of Dr. Olivero, it allows them to get to know a role model who not only comes from where they are but came back.