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University at Buffalo’s student-run street medicine program wins one prestigious grant and seeks another

A medical student from UB HEALS treats a man in downtown Buffalo. Credit: Douglas Levere.

Thursday’s United Way Next Generation event will be a crowd vote

By Grove Potter

Release Date: April 25, 2017

“We say we do house calls to those who don’t have a home.”
Moudi Hubeishy, UB medical student who started UB HEALS

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The street medicine program launched by students at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, called UB HEALS, has won a $9,000 grant from a prestigious medical honor society and is a finalist for a $5,000 grant from the United Way to be awarded on Thursday.

The program, in which medical students make twice-weekly sweeps of areas that homeless people are known to frequent, won a Medical Student Service Leadership Project Award from the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.

The society is a professional medical organization that recognizes and advocates for excellence in scholarship and the highest ideals in the profession of medicine. The award includes three years of funding: $5,000 the first year, followed by $3,000 and then $1,000.

The UB medical students, accompanied by a UB faculty physician, talk to homeless people, inquire about their health and attempt to steer them to housing options and clinics, if necessary. They also provide basic care on the scene and simple gifts, like bus tickets. The mission is to improve the health of the homeless population and provide hands-on education for the students.

The executive director of Alpha Omega Alpha, Richard L. Byyny, MD, FACP, said the UB HEALS application was one of 14 submitted for the award, and one of two that won.

“We identified the best student-run programs and leadership curricula,” he said. “The two winning schools and their Medical Student Service Leadership programs exemplify leadership, caring, and service in the medical profession and medical education — tenets that are integral to the mission of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.”

UB HEALS is also one of 10 finalists in the United Way Next Generation competition. The winner will receive $5,000, and the second and third place finishers will receive $2,500.

Winners will be chosen by a vote taken at the ‘Pitch 10’ event, Thursday, April 27, from 5-8 p.m. at Buffalo Riverworks, 359 Ganson St., Buffalo. Tickets to the event are $20, and that includes two votes in the competition, hors-d’oeuvres and two drinks.

Moudi Hubeishy, the medical student who started UB HEALS after seeing a similar program in his hometown, Rochester, New York, said the Alpha Omega Alpha grant will help equip and establish the program. He said that any winnings from the United Way competition would go toward buying and equipping a UB HEALS van that could make the program both more efficient and permanent.

“We say we do house calls to those who don’t have a home,” he said.

Hubeishy credited the support he and his classmates received from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, particularly the mentorship of David Milling, MD, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs, and Dr. Christian DiFasio, MD, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine.

“The whole program and everything we’ve been able to start is because of the amazing support we have received from the faculty,” said Hubeishy, a second-year student.

And for Thursday’s United Way event, are they trying to stack the crowd with supporters?

“We hope so,” he admitted. “The more people we can get out the better.”

Milling said UB HEALS has been such a huge benefit to the homeless people served and to the students, he expects it to be around for a long time.

“The students learn a lot. They learn that there is such a thin line between one day being housed and a stable member of what we think of as regular business, and the next day being homeless,” Milling said. “They learn that there is still a lot of inefficiency and a lack of coordination in the medical system to take care of some of our must vulnerable community members.”

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