, Volume 86, Issue 5, pp 781-790
Date: 08 Jul 2009

The Columbia-Harlem Homeless Medical Partnership: A New Model for Learning in the Service of Those in Medical Need

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Though altruism and patient advocacy are promoted in medical education curricula, students are given few opportunities to develop these skills. Student-run clinics focusing on the health needs of the underserved can provide important health services to needy patients while providing students with career-influencing primary care experiences. The Columbia-Harlem Homeless Medical Partnership (CHHMP)—a project initiated by medical students to provide primary care to Northern Manhattan's homeless population—serves as a new model of service learning in medical education. Unlike many other student-run clinics, CHHMP has developed direct patient outreach, continuous care (stable “student–patient teams” and a weekly commitment for all volunteers), and regular internal data review. Chart review data presented demonstrate the project's success in providing care to the clinic's target population of homeless and unstably housed patients. Targeted outreach efforts among clients have increased rates of patient follow-up at each subsequent review period. Additionally, CHHMP has used review data to develop services concordant with identified patient needs (psychiatric care and social services). CHHMP has recruited a committed group of volunteers and continues to engender an interest in the health needs of the underserved among students. Not only does CHHMP provide a “medical home” for homeless patients, it also provides a space in which students can develop skills unaddressed in large teaching hospitals. This project, a “win–win” for patients and students, serves as a unique model for community health-based service learning in medical education.