Michigan State University Students Spearhead Free Pop-up Health Clinics for Homeless Communities
A committed group of medical students from Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine is making a tangible difference in Grand Rapids, Michigan by providing vital medical services to homeless communities.
Their endeavor involves partnering with local outreach initiatives to establish free pop-up clinics throughout the city.
Grand Rapids Street Medicine: A Pioneering Initiative
Grand Rapids Street Medicine (GRSM) forms part of the larger organization known as the Street Medicine Institute. Their mission is crystal clear: Deliver free health care to homeless populations across Grand Rapids.
They execute this by setting up free clinics in partnership with other entities and implementing pop-up clinics in areas frequented by homeless individuals, thereby bringing much-needed medical care
The free permanent clinic supplements the transient pop-up initiatives.
More than 300 MSU students and 25 licensed physicians from Corewell Health donate their time to the cause.
They cater to the medical needs of the underprivileged at these clinics, offering their expertise free of charge. GRSM’s president, Christa Schafer-Nutile, emphasized the pivotal role they play in the community.
Collaborative Approach: Partnering with Community Organizations
The success of the GRSM initiative lies in its partnership with community organizations that already have established relationships with the homeless.
This symbiotic collaboration facilitates the set-up of pop-up clinics where doctors and students treat minor wounds, write prescriptions, and offer basic lab work. They also provide personal care supplies and refer patients to primary care facilities.
The Genesis of GRSM
Grand Rapids Street Medicine was conceived in 2018 by a group of MSU students. Dr. Beth Makowski, Division Chief of Acute Health at Corewell Health, identified the need for a student-run free clinic in the Grand Rapids area.
In collaboration with Dr. Richard Bryce, who leads a street medicine team in Detroit, and then-medical student Dr. Matthew Oram, they laid the foundation for GRSM.
Their motivation behind GRSM was to offer high-quality healthcare completely free of charge to those experiencing homelessness in Kent County, with an emphasis on outreach.
Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, GRSM adapted by providing telemedicine services, ensuring continuous care for their patients.
Partnership with Mel Trotter Ministries
GRSM is an integral part of the Community Partners Medical Clinic located inside the Mel Trotter Ministries homeless shelter in the Heartside neighborhood of the city. This permanent clinic serves the community members whether or not they reside at Mel Trotter.
Initially established in 2018, the partnership between GRSM and Mel Trotter was solidified alongside collaborations with Trinity Health, Corewell Health, Krakoff School of Nursing, and the Grand Valley State University School of Nursing.
Although the pandemic limited the students’ outreach capabilities, they managed to continue their services within Mel Trotter.
Expanding Medical Outreach
In the last year, GRSM has expanded its outreach by partnering with the city’s Homeless Outreach Team, Trinity Health, and Catherine’s Health Center.
Together, they formed an outreach medical team that operates on the streets, providing the same level of care as the pop-up clinics.
GRSM is also exploring collaborations with the fire department and EMS system to facilitate “street runs”, which involve taking resources in backpacks to encampments.
For the sustainability of their commendable initiative, GRSM relies on community funding. They are always on the lookout for community partners to assist in their mission.