Engaged in Community
Maëlys Amat, Class of 2018, has been involved in community service since high school. After college, she volunteered for AmeriCorps. During that year, she worked in a homeless shelter, where she learned the importance of foot care and its role in managing chronic disease. When she arrived at Drexel University College of Medicine, the French-born MD/MBA student was eager to apply that experience, and she signed up for the student-run Health Outreach Project clinics that serve lower-income populations in Philadelphia.
I knew I was interested in working with the Health Outreach Project clinics back when I first applied. During my MBA year, I remained involved, and I saw an opportunity to create a foot care clinic at a new Health Outreach Project site, St. Raymond's House, a supportive housing program for homeless men and women. Foot care is important to people's general health, particularly those patients with diabetes, and it really was an unmet need for this patient population. It turned out that the individuals we were serving were very receptive to it. We have since expanded our services to include a second location, and I hope we can take it to other sites.
LEAVING CAMPUS TO GAIN PERSPECTIVE
Drexel gives us so many ways to get involved in the community outside of the school. The number of student-run community initiatives is always growing. At Drexel, we have patient contact from early on, and volunteering at the Health Outreach Project clinics gives us even more exposure. At some other schools, the "student-run" clinics are often mainly run by physicians, but here we're given the chance to run the organization ourselves. I held a number of different administrative roles in the clinic program, working to implement services on the clinic level, and I eventually served as board chair, overseeing all the sites. Both were rewarding ways to be involved.
INSIGHT AND EXPERIENCE
Running the foot care clinic has given me skills both in health care and in business that I know I will use in my career. Often in health care, there's a disconnect between the administrators and the clinicians, which is something I hope to be able to address with my dual degree. At the clinic, I've learned some of the leadership and management skills needed to run a provider organization, giving me a hands-on way to apply what I was learning in my MBA classes. On the medical side, it gives medical students the chance to actually help patients in a safe and non-intimidating setting with the supervision of faculty.
THE VALUE OF LISTENING
Another skillset I've gained is the ability to bridge cultural gaps, to deal with language barriers and to connect with patients from different socioeconomic backgrounds. This is something you can only learn on the ground, working directly with people. But the best lesson in starting the foot care clinic is the value of really listening to patients. Our work has been effective because we made sure to start by listening to patients and addressing their specific needs. I'm focusing on internal medicine, and I hope to someday start a free clinic from the ground up and continue to serve patients with limited resources — my work at Drexel has only strengthened that vision.
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