In March 2015, six medical students in Geisel’s Urban Health Scholars program went to New Orleans for spring break to experience and learn about the city’s challenging and distinct health care delivery system. They are sharing their experiences in several posts here on the Geisel Med Blog. You can find all their posts here.
Healthcare for the Homeless
By: Andrea Jaresova ’18
On Thursday morning, we concluded our trip with a visit to New Orleans’ Healthcare for the Homeless site at the Veterans Affairs clinic, where we had scheduled a meeting with Dr. Joe Kanter. When we arrived, Cindy, a nurse, gave us a tour of the facility. She explained that the goal of the clinic was to provide comprehensive primary care services to homeless persons in the city of New Orleans and surrounding parishes. While Healthcare for the Homeless is not an overnight shelter, it provides many other services in addition to primary care appointments, screenings and treatments for chronic disease. Some other services that the clinic offers are immunizations and dental care.. Furthermore, the center offered clean showering facilities, free laundry service, lunch as well as job application help.
What really stood out to us was the fact that the staff at Healthcare for the Homeless seemed genuinely happy to be there. It was very clear that Cindy and Dr. Kanter had a very positive relationship with the individuals who came by the clinie. Throughout our tour, we were greeted with many smiles and waves from both staff and patients.
We then met with Dr. Kanter to discuss his responsibilities in the clinie and the various challenges that most physicians faced when working with homeless populations in New Orleans. Dr. Kanter explained that one of the main challenges was being able to provide his patients with the medications they needed since most did not have insurance or any money to cover the costs, especially if they were suffering from chronic conditions. Furthermore, the staffing at the clinic was limited and Dr. Kanter was the only physician at that particular location. On the other hand, one of the positives was that there was a lot of trust between the patient population and the healthcare staff. This meant that many of the patients were very good about going to their follow-up appointments and receiving continuing monitoring for their chronic problems.
We were really glad that we could meet with Dr. Kanter on our last day. We drew some parallels between his clinic and Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, which we had visited in the fall. It was really interesting to see how different state policies influenced care for the underserved and how that impacted physician practices.
Our trip to New Orleans was amazing! It provided us incredible exposure to urban health and a fascinating introduction to a challenging and remarkably distinct health care delivery system. The experience strongly reinforced our interests in serving vulnerable populations and working to enhance health care delivery and policy within our nation. We are very thankful to all of our New Orleans hosts who made the trip possible, especially Dr. Darrell Solet and his wife, as well as the Geisel alumni who so generously support the Urban Health Scholar’s program. Thank you.
– Urban Health Scholars c/o 2018