As the class of the 2025 Medicine Program at Tower Health’s Drexel University College of Medicine completes their first semester of medical school, Dr Eugene York said he was proud to see how well the students were able to champion the underserved patients.
York is the course director for the Health Advocacy Practicum (HAP) at the college. HAP, a compulsory course primarily focused on community engagement experiences, helps students learn first-hand how to identify and address the social determinants of health and the barriers that underserved or disabled patients face in accessing healthcare. health or stay healthy.
“The purpose of HAP is to reach out to students early in their careers and introduce them, educate them and involve them in these challenges that many people face,” York said. “The goal is to prepare students to continue community health work in the future. “
Students are working this academic year with nearly 30 organizations in Berks County to help those facing health barriers such as insecurity, homelessness, substance use disorders, disabilities. , the effects of a psychiatric illness, etc.
Andrea Bensusan, Academic Program Coordinator at the College of Medicine, said the enthusiastic participation of the students and their host organizations made this first semester of HAP a success.
“Community service is clearly a high priority for students,” she said. “And our community partners were very excited to hear from the students and have additional support in their work. “
One of the host sites is the Reading Hospital Street Medicine Program, which York founded as part of his role as a Tower Health clinician. Several students joined York and his colleagues to help provide primary and urgent care to homeless people in Berks County – and the participation of the students helped expand its services to include eye health and care respiratory.
York saw the student learning process firsthand. During an eye screening, the students met a man who was concerned about a family history of glaucoma, but who had not had the opportunity to monitor his eye health because he was homeless.
“We were able to examine him and get him into formal eye care, and indeed, he had pretty advanced glaucoma,” York said. “Finding out that we may have been able to save his eyesight, which was very exciting for the students.”
The students also met a man who needed treatment for a chronic illness that had left him unable to work and homeless.
“The medical care in this case was fairly easy to provide,” York said. “The real barriers were these social determinants of health, and that was an important lesson for the students to learn. “
The more time students spend working with community members in need, the better equipped they are to keep the work going, Bensusan said.
“When students see patients in a clinic, they have a better understanding of what the patient may have gone through just to get to the appointment,” Bensusan said. “This could include access to transportation, access to insurance, finding daycare if they have kids, or just having time in their schedule. “
Bensusan and York look forward to expanding the program’s county-wide partnerships as more students enroll at the campus, which opened in August. As the school year continues, they will also help students create more extracurricular volunteer opportunities.
“We hope students will be inspired when they see the work that individuals and organizations in the community are doing,” York said. “There are so many people and organizations doing a fantastic job, and it inspires us all to emulate and continue that work. “