In New Brunswick, RU Med Students Refine Skills, Treat the Poor

Stephanie Oh, a Rutgers medical student, provides care to New Brunswick's poor and homeless in her role as student director of the Promise Clinic. Credits: Jacqueline Gonzalez/Rutgers

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – What goes on in the classroom is just one piece of the education received by Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Students.

In fact, New Brunswick itself serves as a larger clinic for the school’s budding doctors and medical professionals. Through several school-led programs, med students provide free care and outreach to residents of a city in which 34 percent of people live in poverty, according to Rutgers.

“When healthcare students become knowledgeable about the people they serve, they are better able to practice patient-centered medicine,” Susan Giordano, the coordinator of one community-based program, told Rutgers. “Our goal is for student leaders to promote and advocate for the community by instilling humanism in medicine.

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Giordano runs the medical school’s Homeless and Indigent Population Health Outreach Project, an initiative that sends students into the community to provide care. Another push, the Community Health Initiative, enables students to shadow physicians providing care for disenfranchised groups in New Brunswick.

Together, the programs recruit 600 student volunteers each year, according to Rutgers.

Giordano’s project, for example, sends interns on a community tour to learn about residents’ challenges in eating healthy and obtaining care and support. Many of these people lack cars and live on small budgets, according to Rutgers.

The Promise Clinic is the “clinical arm” of the project, according to Rutgers. Through that, medical students have since 2005 delivered primary-care services to people without health insurance at Eljiah’s Promise soup kitchen. Students from Rutgers’ schools of public health, social work and pharmacy, along with future physicians’ assistants and psychiatrists, work with med students to accomplish that goal.

“The partnerships allow us to learn how to work as an interdisciplinary team,” Stephanie Oh, a med student and the student director of the Promise Clinic, told Rutgers. “Health is not just a state of physical wellness; it’s also mental and social wellness. Our student-doctors are learning that in order to ensure a patient’s wellbeing you have to be able to take care of all these facets together.”

What’s more, students have raised more than $30,000 to pay for medical expenses in the past two years.

Roughly 45 teams of four to five med students work for the Promise Clinic each year, according to Rutgers. In 12 years of operation, the program has treated about 600 patients.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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