Origins of Street Medicine
The street medicine paradigm of care was pioneered by Dr. James Withers. Partnered with a formerly homeless man, Dr. Withers began providing medical care to street people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with the goal of seeking out opportunities to learn medicine while being fully immersed in the “reality of the alienated and excluded poor of that city.”
Dr. Withers centered his work on the patient, working with them on their terms and with their unique goals. He focused on their priorities, which were often not medically related. This focus on building relationships eventually allowed Dr. Withers to partner with the street people he met to address their health needs. Others joined Dr. Withers in this cause as he continued his work, and Operation Safety Net was founded on his guiding principles.
Today, street medicine is not only a national movement; it is a global one. The specific nuances of the nature of care for street people may differ from place to place, but all organizations that practice street medicine act on the foundation of relational patient-centered care that focuses on the goals of the individual and works in an environment of respect, dignity, and acceptance.
Source: “About The Institute.” http://streetmedicine.org/wordpress/about-the-institute/
Street Medicine in Detroit
In December 2011, program founder Jonathan Wong, then a first year medical student, caught wind of the growing practice of street medicine. A vision to serve a portion of the nearly 20,000-person homeless community of Detroit directly on the streets and in shelters began to form. He enlisted the help of his colleagues and they collectively began to plan for the advent of an interdisciplinary model of street medicine.
In May 2012, under the guidance and support from faculty such as Dr. Jennifer Mendez, Dr. Lisa MacLean, and Dr. Mohammad Anees, and our dear friends at Neighborhood Services Organization (NSO), particularly Dean Carpenter, Luke Brown, Reggie Huff, and Lewis Hickson, a new student organization was recognized at the School of Medicine under the name “Street Medicine Detroit.” Humbly standing on the shoulders of the street medicine movement, we are dedicated to providing a student-based, health professional-led, and patient-centered method of care for the street homeless. Partnering with our friends on the street, we aim to strive for “in-reach” into the health system from which they have been excluded.