January 22, 2015

Street Medicine Detroit honored at MLK tribute event

Street Medicine Detroit, a Wayne State University School of Medicine student organization, was honored at WSU's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute, held Jan. 16 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.

(Click here for a video about Street Medicine Detroit).

The organization received the 2015 Dr. Arthur L. Johnson Community Leadership Award from Wayne State's Office of Government and Community Affairs. The award is named after the late civil rights leader and Wayne State administrator, and honors individuals and organizations whose contributions positively affect the community. Nominations are made by the public.

"The award is a huge honor, and certainly a reflection of not just our dedicated student volunteers, but our community partners, who do street outreach on a daily basis. We lean heavily upon Neighborhood Service Organization and Southwest Solutions, and we are forever grateful for the meaningful and inspiring work that they do," said Street Medicine Detroit founder and President Jonathan Wong, a fourth-year medical student. "I think the award is also a win for our patients, too, because of the increased community awareness it provides and the platform for them to share their journey of getting back on their feet."

Street Medicine Detroit delivers health care and related services directly to the city's homeless, who are often service-resistant and staying in temporary shelters or living on the streets. The students visit the homeless twice a week with social service providers, are supervised by certified nurse practitioner Dean Carpenter,  and perform basic health procedures such as checking vitals, testing blood glucose levels, answering medical questions and distributing medications as needed. The group's goal is to improve health outcomes in the underserved population and reduce emergency department visits and costs. Street Medicine Detroit has had approximately 700 patient encounters since starting health care "runs" in 2012, including more than 200 follow-up visits, a testament to the continuity of care it's delivering, Wong said. Student volunteers earn co-curricular credits for participation. For more information visit www.streetmedicinedetroit.org and like the organization on Facebook.

"They won the award because of their dedication to the underserved population in Detroit, despite having heavy didactic and clinical commitments. They make time outside of class to learn and serve the community in which they live and go to school," said Jennifer Mendez, Ph.D., who directs the school's Co-curricular Programs and attended Friday's event with the group. "We are grateful to the faculty, residents and fellows who are a part of the team with the medical students."

Richard Bryce, D.O., was appointed the organization's first medical director seven months ago. "He is a humanistic and compassionate family medicine physician who is innately able to build trust and relationships with his patients. He has been a wonderful addition to our lead clinical preceptor, Dean Carpenter, who has been modeling these same characteristics for our students for years. We also have several other residents and attendings who volunteer with us semi-regularly," Wong said.

The group continues to grow and improve, including implementing a new Electronic Medical Record provided by another Street Medicine practice based in Santa Barbara, Calif. Members also are working to improve their inpatient consult service workflow, finalizing a Street Medicine Detroit elective at the School of Medicine for third- and fourth-year students, submitting an application for nonprofit status and better integrating with partners to provide targeted multidisciplinary care, Wong said.

Since the awards ceremony last week, the organization's leaders are receiving requests to explore potential collaborations with homeless recovery services groups and many individuals have asked to help or offer their expertise. "We think this is definitely a good thing, as no single entity can tackle the issue of homelessness alone," Wong said. "Our patients could still benefit from some more regular residents and attending physicians. We could also use more cash flow, particularly for some of the long-term goals that we have."

Wong is quick to thank others for their continued support, including Henry Ford Health System and the School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, as well as Wayne State's Office of Government and Community Affairs and its director of Community Relations, Victor Green, who organized and hosted the MLK Tribute Day, "plus the patients who we serve who courageously invite us into their lives in hopes that we might be able to provide comfort and healing," Wong added.

Established in the late 1990s, Wayne State's Martin Luther King Jr. tribute brings together the metropolitan Detroit community to celebrate and honor the life and legacy of King, and has featured prominent civil rights leaders and advocates. The 2015 keynote speakers were The Three Doctors - Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt and George Jenkins, who as teens growing up together in Newark, N.J., were surrounded by negative influences, yet made a pact that they would stick together, go to college, graduate and become doctors. The practicing physicians wrote three books about their lives and founded The Three Doctors Foundation in 2000.