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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 27  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 99-102

Street outreach and shelter care elective for senior health professional students: An interprofessional educational model for addressing the needs of vulnerable populations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, New Mexico, USA
2 Writer, Healing Hands newsletter, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
3 University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy and Director of University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center Interprofessional Education, New Mexico, USA
4 Department of Family Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, New Mexico, USA

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Cynthia Arndell
Department of Internal Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131
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Source of Support: In the form of grants, equipment, drugs or all of these: La Tierra Sagrada Deanís Endowed Scholarship Award, "Metropolitan Homeless Project: An Opportunity For University of New Mexico Homeless Patients", 2008, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1357-6283.134361

Background: University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (UNMHSC), located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, has an international reputation for developing and implementing curricular initiatives addressing health inequities. The Street Outreach and Shelter Care elective is designed to provide interprofessional service learning opportunities for senior pharmacy and medical students addressing the needs of our nation's most marginalized population-those experiencing homelessness. Methods: Our institution collaborated with multiple community partners serving the homeless to develop, implement and teach a 4-week senior elective for health professions students. During this elective, senior pharmacy and medical student teams provide individualized health care to men in local homeless shelter facilities. Students also participate in street outreach programs across a continuum of homeless populations. Weekly interprofessional education (IPE) faculty-facilitated sessions allow students to reflect on their experiences and learn from other discipline perspectives. Results: Student evaluations uniformly reflect the transformative nature of the rotation since its inception, April 2009. Our outcomes corroborated the findings of similar service learning models developed to sensitize health professions students to the complex challenges of homeless populations. Discussion: Academic centers can play a central role in health education reform by instituting curricula focusing on the primacy of population welfare and just distribution of resources. Senior year is an opportune time to reinforce social accountability among health professions before graduation. This elective is based on adult principles of learning and can serve as an international educational model for developing interprofessional curricular innovations addressing the healthcare needs of vulnerable populations.

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