When The Patient Is The Community: School of Medicine Students, Staff Volunteer Time

02/03/08  Portland, OR

School of Medicine students, faculty, and staff volunteer time and resources for healthcare in the community.

Caring for the health and well-being of our communities sometimes takes forms other than direct patient care. OHSU faculty and staff volunteer throughout their communities in many different ways. Three examples from the School of Medicine reflect the multitude of efforts always underway at OHSU.

Recently, over 30 School of Medicine MD program students and other OHSU volunteers spent one of the coldest afternoons of the winter providing a free health clinic to members of Portland's homeless community. The clinic was a community service component of an Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association's Medical Student Section, Region 1, held in Portland, entitled "Health Care for the Underserved: How Will We Achieve Our Goals?"

"We decided that offering a free screening clinic would serve a community that is consistently challenged by access to adequate care," said Gina Miller, a first-year medical student who headed up the project. "In addition, it would provide the delegates a first-hand opportunity to experience some of the issues we had been discussing."

Partnering with the nonprofit organization Potluck in the Park (which serves hot meals to the homeless in downtown Portland each week,) students performed blood pressure and eye screening, body mass index calculations, foot exams and provided simple first-aid in a parking garage at O'Bryant Square in downtown Portland.

"This event, and indeed the entire conference organized by our students, represents the very best of professionalism, organization, collaboration, community outreach and caring," said James Reuler, MD, MACP, Professor, Department of Medicine. "Collectively, we should all be very proud of their work."

Staff in the School of Medicine Office of the Dean recently came together to support a project in which gently used or new household equipment and furniture were collected and provided to families in need through Portland’s Community Warehouse.  Community Warehouse works in partnership with over 80 local non-profit and social services agencies, and clients include women escaping domestic violence, individuals and families who have been homeless, elderly persons on a limited income, people with mental and physical disabilities, refugee families from all over the world, youth and adults recovering from substance abuse, and the working poor.

In a three-week period, the Dean’s office collected enough items to fully equip almost three families in their homes.  Staff at the agency were particularly enthusiastic to see the amount of new equipment donated by the Dean’s Office.  “It’s so much nicer to be able to hand someone something that’s still in the box,” one commented.

The Ronald McDonald House offers a home-away-from-home for the families of children patients at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. But while this takes care of housing, parents of sick children often don’t have the time or energy to look after themselves--cafeteria or fast food is the only resort. The staff of the Office of the Dean cooks and serves a home-cooked meal once a month for families living at Ronald MacDonald House.

“As anyone working on the Hill knows, hospital food or a walk to the Plaid Pantry can only carry you so far,” said Julie Ramil, Volunteer Coordinator at Ronald McDonald House.  “As well as the nutritional value of a home-cooked meal, there are also the smells, the sounds and the smiles that accompany shared cooking and eating together. These--as much as anything--create the home-away-from-home atmosphere that contributes so much to the health and recovery of families that stay here.”