For eight weeks this summer I was a medical intern at So Others Might Eat (SOME) Medical Clinic in Washington, DC, through the Shepherd Poverty Internship Program. SOME is an interfaith community organization providing a holistic approach to caring for the extremely poor and homeless population of the district. Among its many programs and services, SOME has a medical clinic providing primary and psychiatric care in addition to eye care at one of the only free eye clinics in the city. Being a part of So Others Might Eat has been a life changing experience that has challenged me in many respects. The pervasiveness of medical conditions such as mental health disorders and drug addictions among the impoverished can directly be seen among the patients at SOME Medical. In interacting with these patients I have been challenged to adapt to difficult circumstances, be aware of and compassionate towards the mental state of these patients, and react appropriately to their behavior. I have had patients who requested I not be present for their screenings or examinations solely based on the color of my skin. I have interacted with patients with uncontrolled mental health disorders and patients experiencing detoxification or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. Finally, I have seen the toll that homelessness takes on the health and well-being of the patients I encountered. In these stressful situations I have learned to rationally assess circumstances, empathize with the patients, and respond appropriately.
I actively sought out conversations with the other members of the healthcare team and my supervisors to gain their perspectives on the situations. The staff members are truly supportive of one another and have offered me valuable advice and insight that has come with their extensive experience with this population. I have truly come to service as a central pillar of a life in medicine and have a new found passion for caring for the medical needs of the homeless and less fortunate. I have also been able to critically assess my reactions and have learned a great deal about my own strengths and weaknesses in the clinical setting.
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