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Karen Mallet (media only)

First Year Medical Students Meet Face-to-Face With Homeless

Georgetown University School of Medicine’s New Module “Social and Cultural Issues In Health Care” Is Mandatory For All First Year Students

Washington, DC – It’s at the heart of their medical training – serve the underserved.

Georgetown University’s School of Medicine (SOM) is guided by the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis – caring for the whole person – and a dedication to ethical and compassionate care. Such training is evident in a new program unique to Georgetown that brings first year medical students face-to-face with those who are or have been homeless.

Ten groups, comprised of 20 SOM students, will meet Friday with representatives from the National Coalition for the Homeless. Their meeting at Georgetown marks the first time the School of Medicine has required this activity, which is part of a new curriculum launched this fall at Georgetown.

“As medical students, we spend a lot of time in the books, and most of our knowledge on this topic comes from statistics,” says first year medical student Sanna Ronkainen. “Having small group time with homeless members of our community will provide us a more intimate perspective on one of the most vulnerable populations we will serve, and will help us serve them better in the future as physicians.”

"I'm part of a community now, not a homeless statistic," says George Siletti, a member of the Coalition’s Faces of Homelessness speakers’ bureau who spent decades without a home since the time he was 16 years old. Siletti will be one of 10 speakers meeting with the medical students.

Miquel Pelton, another first year student says, "To be able to meet with the homeless is an honor because I believe it will allow me to break down stereotypes and it allows all of us, as future doctors, to understand the oppressed as real living breathing people."

“This activity marks the first of its kind at the School of Medicine and is being received with tremendous praise from the students and professors,” says Yumi Shitama Jarris, MD, co-director of the Social and Cultural Issues in Health Care, a curriculum module within the SOM.  “The goal of our module is to introduce students to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will allow them to work effectively with patients from diverse cultures and belief systems, their families, and the communities in which they live.”

For the program, the SOM partnered with the Coalition's Faces of Homelessness. Executive director Neil Donovan says, “This unique opportunity is an important part of an ongoing process of connecting our marginalized membership, current and formerly homeless, into leadership roles in the community and bring about social change through the use of first-person voices in communicating the experience of homelessness to the greater community.”

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through Georgetown’s affiliation with MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), home to 60 percent of the university’s sponsored research funding.


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