Medical Students Find a REMEDY for Helping Others

01/22/02    Portland, Ore.

Usable medical supplies are donated to needy groups

Medical students Lisa Skinner and Greg Eilers have found a remedy that helps people and the environment.

Skinner, 25, said she wanted to find some way to help people who don't have all of life's necessities. Eilers, 28, wanted to find a way to cut down the amount of materials destined for landfills.

The two second-year OHSU School of Medicine students started a project call REMEDY, (Recovered Medical Equipment for the Developing World), REMEDY is a method to recover unused but still usable medical supplies.

"We figured there were a lot things in the hospital that were unused but still got thrown away," Eilers said. For example, in a sterile pack for operations not all of the items get used and are thrown away.

Skinner and Eilers contacted nurses and scrub technicians and asked them to collect unused tubing, syringes, staples, rubber gloves and other medical materials that otherwise would be discarded. Employees in OHSU Hospital, Casey Eye Institute, Veteran's Affairs Medical Center and Hatfield Research are some who are now participating in the Remedy project.

The materials are placed in special bins and then about a dozen first and second year medical students volunteer their time to pick up the supplies. The medical supplies are then given to Northwest Medical Teams and The Wallace Medical Concern. Northwest Medical Teams is a nonprofit organization that distributes humanitarian aid such as medicines, supplies and food to beneficiaries in more than 50 developing countries and locally in the Pacific Northwest, to 40 charitable agencies. Northwest Medical Team volunteers are now working in an Afghanistan hospital as well as visiting camps encircling the city of Mazar-e-Shariff providing emergency medical relief to the homeless. The Wallace Medical Concern is a network of free health clinics serving area homeless and those with no or inadequate health insurance. Many clinicians and students from OHSU volunteer their time at the clinics.

Besides these groups, Eilers and Skinner also are looking for additional local services that need such supplies and have the ability to sterilize them.

"I was interested in helping people who don't have everything they need in life. This project was a tangible way to help," Skinner said.

"I like the concept of waste reduction and using things that would otherwise go to landfills," Eilers said.

Since starting the REMEDY project last summer, they have collected more than 30,000 items.

Both said that it is not difficult for employees to be part of this project.

"It's not labor intensive. All it takes is being aware and dropping items in the bins," Skinner said.

"We are so grateful for the volunteer participation of the nurses and surgical technicians that collect these supplies. They are the key factor in the project and they should get most of the credit. This is something extra they do to help others," Eilers said.

The REMEDY program is part of the outreach activities of the Association of Students for the Underserved at OHSU. Members of the ASU, mostly medical students, participate in community volunteer activities such as cooking for the homeless, working with the medically underserved, building houses for Habitat for Humanity and hosting on-campus lectures on such topics as health care access and ethics.

The concept of REMEDY was started by Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1991. OHSU's program is similar but not affiliated with Yale. Last year, OHSU School of Medicine student, Tania Thomas, brought the idea of REMEDY to campus.

If you or your department would like to be a part of REMEDY, contact Greg Eilers at eilers@ohsu.edu or Lisa Skinner at skinneli@ohsu.edu.

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