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Students volunteering at Barbados homeless shelter

Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) medical science students recently volunteered at a homeless shelter in Bridgetown, Barbados where they met with more than 50 people experiencing homelessness. The students, representing three different RUSM student interest groups—Ross Academic Research Society (RARS), Internal Medicine Interest Group (IM-IG), and Emergency Medical Services Interest Group (EMS-IG)—organized the visit to help raise awareness of community resources and highlight the importance of routine health screenings and management.

“People experiencing homelessness have a far more difficult time knowing what healthcare resources are available and how to access them,” said fourth semester student Akshai Chundru, who worked with other students and faculty on the event.  “This is especially important because  people experiencing homelessness have many competing priorities, such as food and shelter, so focusing on health management can be hard.”

As students sat one-on-one with individuals at the shelter, they discussed the benefits of being proactive about health and seeing a medical professional even if there are no urgent concerns. “It is important for someone to receive treatment before any concerns become acute enough they require emergency intervention. This helps people stay healthy and the health systems  less burdened,” said Chundru.

Students shared that many of those they spoke with agreed that seeing a physician would be a good idea. There were questions about where they could go and what health resources and processes are available to them. Barbados, being a republic with universal healthcare, allows all citizens to access medical services regardless of financial status.

Along with these insightful conversations, students distributed over 100 care packages they created, including an informational pamphlet and a variety of toiletries and hygienic products. “We wanted to help people in a concrete way, and as medical students there is only so much we can provide service-wise. Care packages felt like a great way to directly help people even if only in a small way,” shared Chundru. 

RUSM students’ determination to make an undeniable impact on the communities they serve is unwavering. Many shared that they were grateful for the opportunity and wanted to volunteer at shelters individually or with future RUSM initiatives in hopes of doing more for the community beyond this event.

“It’s always heartwarming to see our students embrace RUSM’s mission by contributing to improving healthcare in the communities where they live and learn. Such programs speak to our mission to train culturally competent physicians for the advancement of healthy communities,” said Rhonda McIntyre, MBBS, FAAP, FRCP (C), RUSM’s associate dean for external affairs. 

In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2021-2022, results show yet another strong year for RUSM with a 96% first-time residency attainment rate* thus far. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.

*First time residency attainment rate is the percent of students attaining a 2022-23 residency position out of all graduates or expected graduates in 2021-22 who were active applicants in the 2022 NRMP match or who attained a residency position outside the NRMP match.