Street medicine class helps reach underserved patients

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(ABC 6 News) – For the second year, Zumbro Valley Medical Society is holding a class to give medical students real world practice serving one of the most vulnerable populations in our community.

Twenty-three Mayo Clinic medical students are taking what’s called the "street medicine elective class," it’s a curriculum designed solely around educating students on how to provide care to homeless people who often don’t have access to routine medical care.

This course gets first year medical students out in the community and provide them a hands on experience that they normally don’t get in their first few years of medical school. It also builds bridges between healthcare workers and underserved members of the community.

"A lot of what we see in medical school especially the first couple of years is very theoretical, very just like we’ll see what the disease is, whatever happens. You don’t get that much exposure to patients in general and you definitely don’t get experience with patients in their own environment," said second year medical student Luqman Ellythy.

Ellythy went though the course last year and said he couldn’t be more thankful for the experience, and knows it will undoubtedly make him a better doctor in the future, "This is exactly why I want to do medicine. This is medicine at it’s purest. You’re going down to where the patient is. You’re not making them come to you."

Jeffrey Wood, who is a medical student and is one of the co-founders of the street medicine elective at Mayo Clinic, he first learned about street medicine last year and was inspired to bring that education and experience to other medical students.

"People deserve to have medical care no matter what their housing situation is or their socioeconomic status is and there not being something like this in Rochester where we have access to so many medical resources. I was just inspired to see what I could do," said Wood.

Wednesday, the class met for the first time, and talked with area organizers who work with the homeless and underserved community in Olmsted County regularly.

The ultimate goal of the five-month long course is for students to pair-up with a physician, and go out into the community themselves to provide care for those who need it.

"Student will go under bridges, in camps in order to see what people might need in order to see what people need in general but then also what health needs they might have," explained Executive Director of the Zumbro Valley Medical Society Beth Kangas

While people who reported identifying as homeless went down 24% from 2020 to 2021, those involved with the course say there is a large need in our area.