University of Hawaii medical student Carrie Marshall helps the homeless with health problems every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in a free clinic she helped to set up at the Kakaako shelter.
Marshall and her fellow first-year medical students Jason Pirga and Keith Errecart took the lead in coordinating the details of The Hawaii Homeless Outreach and Medical Educational (H.O.M.E.) project.
“We (medical students) are required to do a community health rotation,” Marshall says. “And two doctors, Jill Omori and Shawn Berry, had seed money to start a homeless clinic for administrative costs. They needed students to help with planning.”
The original plan in 2005 was to set up a tent clinic at Ala Moana Park. When the state’s Kakaako shelter, Next Step, opened in May, it became an ideal place to house health services. Within a few weeks the students set up the clinic inside the shelter a stone’s throw away from their school.
“The hardest thing was determining the immediate need with a shoestring budget for our resource-poor project,” says Marshall. “We had to figure out what was the best possible use of the money we had.”
The student-run clinic has first- and second-year students teaming up with third- and fourth-year students. About 25 medical students, residents and physicians assist approximately 20 patients each week with immunizations, vaccinations and other needs.
Future goals for the medical students include acquiring a van that can take them into the community and help the homeless in different areas.
“As many barriers we can break down for people seeking help, the better,” notes Marshall, a Vancouver native who moved to Hawaii to earn her master’s in public health before starting med school.
The Kaimuki resident plans a career in family medicine. When she’s not studying - which is hardly ever - she enjoys reading books and participating in ocean sports.
She believes one of the benefits of the clinic is that patients get more time and attention with the medical students than they may otherwise.
“I like that we are able to provide free and incredible quality healthcare to underserved populations,” says Marshall. “I love being able to work with all different levels in the medical process. I can learn from those in front of me, and I can mentor people coming up.”
- Linda Dela Cruz
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