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.