For their spring breaks, medical students Claire Barton ‘20, Katherine Vaillancourt ‘20, Brian Wasicek ’20 and Michalee Mayers ’20 wanted to take a break — from studying medicine to applying it. The four students approached Dr. Traci Marquis-Eydman about their desire to take part in Quinnipiac’s Alternative Spring Break program. Marquis-Eydman set them up with House of Hope, a Warwick, Rhode Island-based non-profit organization dedicated to preventing homelessness and addressing the personal and social trauma typically related to it.
“Many of these people often don’t have the resources to even get to a free clinic,” said Barton. “The homeless are so often treated like second-class citizens — or worse, are ignored.”
At first, Barton and her peers were unsure of what kind of impact they wanted to make. They quickly turned to Professor Marquis-Eydman as a mentor and consultant for their group. “They originally had several ideas for services that they wanted to provide,” said Marquis-Eydman. “My goal was to help them narrow down which ones were most clinically relevant to the population they’d be serving.”
Marquis-Eydman also invited the group to her home to prepare for their outreach. They went through various drills and run-throughs, interviewing volunteers from several age groups, including teenagers. “There are just so many variables with street outreach,” Marquis-Eydman said. “It’s not all clinical. You need to know how to communicate, when to push and when not to push.”
Armed with a game plan, Barton and her peers took to the community streets, providing outreach and assistance to the homeless of Warwick. They took their medical histories, conducted VI-SPDATs — surveys that prioritize the homeless in Rhode Island for placement in permanent housing — and held foot clinics at 3 homeless shelters in Providence and Cranston.
Due to the trip’s success, Marquis-Eydman and the medical school plan to continue their collaboration with House of Hope, extending volunteering opportunities to both M1 and M2 students, and expanding the program to offer trips with different focuses.
“We are so proud of our students who went to House of Hope,” Marquis-Eydman said. “They truly exemplify the kind of students that we look for here at Quinnipiac.”