At the end of the year, HHIE and OVP came together once again to reflect on their experiences over the past semester. As a group, students discussed the things that surprised us, questions they had and things they learned while interacting with the homeless population. Students split up into groups of five and discussed their individual experiences further. Using a common list of 12 words related to homeless care, each group designed a schematic representing how they were connected and presented it to the large group.
The clothing committee organizes drives throughout the year to collect clothing to be distributed on the weekly van trips. Winter clothing is especially in demand as many people often ask for jackets and sweaters to keep warm. The van groups try to have enough to donate at least one piece of clothing to each person who asks for it on their trip. Bins are set up in various locations including the medical school and the MSR for people to easily donate any winter gear they no longer need.
Dr. Gaeta along with David Thomas, the manager at the Woods Mullen shelter, led tours of local homeless shelters for OVP members. The group split in two since the shelters were not large enough to accommodate everyone at once. Dr. Gaeta showed half of the members the facilities at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Project (BHCHP) including dental care clinics, in-patient floors, and lounge areas for the clients. Overall, students were impressed by the large scale operations and the relatively new facilities made available for the homeless patients. Meanwhile, David Thomas led the other half of the group around the corner of Mass Ave and Albany Street to the Woods Mullen homeless shelter for women. Students were able to see that the facilities were much more humble and that women there did not have much space to themselves. Staff at the shelter worked hard to keep the building clean and to provide as much care and counseling for their clients. Touring the two buildings right next to BUSM allowed students to appreciate and understand the circumstances that the homeless are in and what resources are available to them.
In response to the recent opioid epidemic, OVP members, along with other members of the BUSM community partook in an overdose training program. Naloxone, or Narcan, is increasingly being prescribed to reverse opioid overdoses and BU students got a first hand training of how to administer the drug. The event was sponsored by BUSM, Harvard Medical School and the Boston Public Health Commission.
The event was kicked off with an introduction to the opioid epidemic by Dr. Alexander Walley, a physician from BMC. If you’re interested to learn more about analog one, visit www.prescribetoprevent.org.
For this educational event, we had three fantastic speakers come and teach us valuable lessons about different aspects of medicine that especially concern the homeless and low income communities.
First, Dr. Zoe Weinstein had us complete a group exercise in which we practiced counseling patients about substance abuse. Each of us took turns interviewing in groups of two, to simulate the kinds of questions that would be most appropriate in that situation.
Next was Dr. Payel Roy, who coached us on discussions about housing. We spent the session in a circle, considering the various challenges faced by individuals who are without a home, or in and out of one, and how to best address this sensitive topic.
Last, but not least, Dr. Vassiliki Pravodelov (a BUSM and OVP grad!) taught us about the strategies used when asking patients about trauma. It was a very humbling and moving conversation.
OVP and HHIE came together to participate in the Alan Alda Group workshop to get to know each other better and to foster a team building spirit. The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science leads workshops that use improvisational theater games to help scientists communicate more directly and personally. Dr. Sarfaty, who had recently participated in a workshop lead the session, which included several icebreakers and improvisational exercises. Students, group leaders, as well as physicians participated in the activities. Unlike at the beginning of the session, by the end of the three hours everyone had opened up and was much more at ease with each other and eager to embark on the years activities together.
In partnership with AMWA (American Medical Women’s Association), we sold a bundle of these neat t-shirts, and it was for a great cause! Part of the money went to Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in the South End, and we also used it to fund the continued existence of OVP (purchasing clothing, groceries, etc) so we can keep doing what we’re doing. And that’s a good thing!
OVP Orientation Meeting
This was OVP’s first meeting of the year. It was a chance for members to get to know one another before starting to go out on the van. Students were given their group assignments and had a few small group discussions about feelings about homelessness in general and going out on the van. Members were briefed on a safety and what a typical van trip would look like. Dr. Gaeta also came to give members a flu shot demonstration. She walked members through how to give one and then demonstrated on an orange. A video of Dr. Gaeta demonstrating this was posted on the OVP member’s site so they were able to refresh their skills before going out on the van.
Open sign ups are an opportunity for BU students not directly involved in OVP to experience what a van trip is like. Students from the Graduate Medical Sciences, Physician Assistant or Dental programs are able to go out on the van. Open sign ups happen throughout the year. They typically occur in the Spring after M2s begin studying for STEP, in the Summer when members may go home, on Thanksgiving, and over Winter break. The van goes out every Thursday no matter the circumstance so we always need willing volunteers to help out!