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MSU student doctors hit the streets to care for Detroit's homeless population

Posted: 10:07 PM, Oct 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-24 09:18:58-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Come rain, shine or snow, a team of medical students jump on their bikes each week, carrying with them pounds of equipment and supplies.

“Sometimes we spend our time passing out blankets or socks on the street," said Ellie Small, a second-year medical student at Michigan State University and president of the school's Detroit Street Care. "Sometimes we end up dropping our patients off at the emergency room because it’s out of our hands."

The program at MSU started about five years ago as an off shoot of Wayne State's street medicine program.

It's a student-run, all volunteer program that aims to bridge the gap in health care access by providing mobile care to the city's homeless population.

“Someone’s not going to be worried about taking their hypertension medication everyday if they don’t know where they’re getting their next meal," Small told 7 Action News.

The program provides important medical attention some of these patients won't get elsewhere, while allowing student doctors to experience hands-on training in not only medicine, but bedside manner.

"You’re meeting your patients in their home," Small said. "Whatever their home might look like. And we’ve never expect our physicians to walk into our living room and tower over us."

One of the group's faculty advisers is Dr. Marjan Moghaddam, an Osteopathic physician with Henry Ford. She said that while most of the time the group is addressing non-emergent healthcare needs, these student doctors have had to triage emergency situations too, like a car crash that occurred in the middle of a weekly run.

“At that moment we were like oh geez, we’re the first responders, we’re the first ones on the scene," Moghaddam said.

MSU's Street Care team collaborates with street medicine teams from U of M and Wayne State, and often times they're seeing the same patients and follow-ups are crucial.

"We know where they’re going to stay," Moghaddam said of tracking patients who often move from place to place. "We will always ask them will you be here."

“You might not be able to change the whole system in a night going out on the streets passing out meds and blankets, but you can change that one person’s day or week or year or maybe their life. And if you can impact one person, that’s huge," Small said.

Detroit Street Care is always looking for donations and medical supplies. For more information please contact them directly at detroitstreetcare@gmail.com.