JeffHOPE Celebrates 25 Years of Providing Care to City’s Homeless
In 1993, a group of Jefferson medical students opened a free clinic to serve homeless men at a safe haven established by Project HOME. Today, that clinic has evolved into JeffHOPE (Health, Opportunities, Prevention and Education), a student-run program that operates under the guidance of our department of family and community medicine. It provides acute, basic medical care and assists individuals and families experiencing homelessness or that lack access to resources and ongoing health care.
“I can truly assert that Jefferson students have changed the way that health care is delivered to those who are homeless or marginalized,” says Sister Mary Scullion, executive director and president of Project HOME, during JeffHOPE’s 25th anniversary celebration this past October.
JeffHOPE encompasses weekly visits to four homeless shelters and one needle exchange program in Philadelphia and is fully run by more than 500 students and supported with 100 faculty members (primarily residents) who provide healthcare and education for up to 5,000 homeless individuals annually. JeffHOPE’s mission is to serve the underserved, and its clinics have evolved from providing basic care to offering lab work, education and more.
Once run by Sidney Kimmel Medical College (SKMC) student volunteers, JeffHOPE now is multidisciplinary, with peers from physical therapy, occupational therapy, couple and family therapy, pharmacy and public health participating.
“My source of pride is being at an institution where the vast majority of our students, with no requirement from the dean’s office, choose to spend time at JeffHOPE,” says Mark L. Tykocinski, MD, provost and the Anthony F. and Gertrude M. DePalma Dean of SKMC.
One of them is SKMC student Paul Leo ’19, who during the event’s panel discussion, described the valuable dual role JeffHOPE plays: providing acute medical services and being a community advocate and partner.
“It almost doesn’t feel like you’re practicing medicine,” agrees Omari Baye, director of services at ACTS Shelter, one of the facilities JeffHOPE works with. “Many times, the JeffHOPE student is the source of entertainment for the child or parent receiving treatment.”
The anniversary celebration included the presentation of Jefferson Lifetime Achievement Awards to James Plumb, MD, MPH, vice chair for community medicine, co-director at the Center for Urban Health, and professor of family and community medicine at Jefferson; and Lara Weinstein, MD, MPH, DrPH, associate professor of family and community medicine at Jefferson. As Jefferson student and faculty advisors, Drs. Weinstein and Plumb, respectively, helped to launch JeffHOPE 25 years ago and continue to be vital members of the organization today.
“People who attend medical school tend to be pretty confident, but volunteering with JeffHOPE is really humbling,” says Dr. Weinstein. “It has taught us that doctors are not always the experts, and we need to work as part of a bigger team.”