Oahu's homeless treated 7,600 times by UH medical students

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Tina Shelton, (808) 554-2586
Director of Communications, John A. Burns School of Medicine
Posted: Sep 7, 2012

UH medical students helping a patient in Kalaeloa this year.
UH medical students helping a patient in Kalaeloa this year.
Patients at homeless shelters on O‘ahu have received medical care more than 7,600 times from UH medical students in the six years since the Hawai‘i Homeless Outreach and Medical Education (H.O.M.E.) Project was launched at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) at UH Manoa.
Nearly 450 medical students at various stages of their medical education have volunteered to be part of the outreach since 2006, setting up mobile medical clinics three times a week at state-sponsored shelters in Kaka‘ako, Wai‘anae and Kalaeloa.
The homeless people who have been helped during that time include the unemployed and uninsured, both adults and children.
“Thank you for helping me! If it weren't for HOME clinic, I would not have been able to go back to work,” one of the patients reported. “I really hated going do the doctor before and they always treated me like a second-class person.  But, after seeing you guys, I have faith in medicine again."
Said another patient, "I am so thankful that you come to the shelter every week. It has been really hard for me to get insurance and I wouldn't be able to see doctors or get my medicines if it wasn't for this clinic.”
All medical students in their first year at JABSOM must participate in a yearlong community health setting, and H.O.M.E. is one of 10 options available to them.  At H.O.M.E., the students perform medical check-ups, taking patients’ vital signs and discussing their medical histories.
The students, under supervision of volunteer faculty and community physicians, also are asked to interview one of their patients to learn more about what led them into homelessness.  Students write essays based on their interview—and it’s a lesson that sticks with them.
“It’s easy to just judge someone as a homeless person without asking yourself, what caused the homelessness? What factors in their lives or the economy or within their families, or whatever, led to the problem,” said H.O.M.E. founder Dr. Jill Omori, JABSOM associate professor of family medicine and community health.
Second-year medical students have the opportunity to work as managers of the H.O.M.E. Project or its spin-off program formed in 2011, the Hawai‘i Youth Program for Excellence (H.Y.P.E.)
H.Y.P.E. is aimed at teenagers in the shelters, and helps them get physical exercise and work toward better self-esteem.
A mother living at one of the shelters found H.Y.P.E. to be a godsend. She wrote, “My daughter anxiously looks forward to the events every month and has really opened up a lot since starting the program. She feels comfortable talking to the students and knows that it is a safe environment for her to share her troubles and concerns."
Third-year medical students at JABSOM serve a Family Medicine and Community Health clerkship with H.O.M.E. Every week for nearly two months (seven weeks), they work at two to three clinics.
For 10 fourth-year medical students, an elective also is available that requires them to provide health care at no fewer than 25 clinics in their final year of medical school. Every year since its inception, the fourth-year elective has been filled to capacity.  It's a sign of how successful the medical school’s curriculum promoting care for the underserved has been.
Omori started H.O.M.E. after homelessness began to spread dramatically throughout O‘ahu, a problem noticeable in the Kaka‘ako neighborhood where the medical school opened a new campus in 2005. That year, Omori surveyed students and faculty at JABSOM and learned that 94 percent of students and 88 percent of faculty members felt homelessness and treating the underserved on O‘ahu was a problem that needed to be addressed more in the medical school curriculum.
The following year, in August 2006, H.O.M.E. was launched, and overall, the students have evaluated more than 7,600 medical problems. In 2009, the Hawai‘i H.O.M.E. Project also began driving its mobile clinic van once a month to the United Methodist Church in Honolulu, where the community provides outreach to homeless people who do not reside at shelters and those who live full-time on the streets of the city.
The Hawai‘i H.O.M.E. Project is featured in the September issue of the peer-reviewed Hawai‘i Journal of Medicine & Public Health.

For more information, visit: http://jabsom.hawaii.edu