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National and Chapter News

Columbia-Harlem Homeless Medical Partnership
A FREE CLINIC FOR THE HOMELESS

CHHMP

In October 2004, looking for an opportunity to serve the homeless of Upper Manhattan and to further their experiential learning, a group of medical students at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons created an initiative for a new student-run free clinic in New York City. Today, this project has transformed into the Columbia-Harlem Homeless Medical Partnership (CHHMP), which, as of April 2008, has seen 112 patients in 183 visits since its opening on May 1, 2007.

Operating from the basement of Saint Mary's Episcopal Church in West Harlem every Tuesday evening, the clinic provides the homeless, the uninsured and the local community with basic medical care, health education, and referrals to a variety of social services. Every week, 14 to 18 student-clinicians representing all four years see patients under the supervision of Dr. Jim Spears, a Columbia Family Medicine attending physician with over ten years of experience in healthcare for the homeless. Because of the importance of continuity of care when working with the homeless, the same group of medical students and attending physician commit to working at the clinic on a near weekly basis. Students are also involved in twice weekly community outreach activities, as well a peer-to-peer seminar on homelessness.

These outreach and academic opportunities allow the students to develop a better understanding of the population the clinic serves. CHHMP is dedicated to working with and within the targeted community. Although the students initially faced setbacks in site selection, Saint Mary's Church has proven to be an advantageous location for the clinic's mission. During the daytime, the space houses a homeless drop-in center run by the Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS). The church sponsors a food pantry and provides space for community programs on weekday evenings. CHHMP benefits from both these partnerships and the ability to work within the framework of two established community organizations. The services of the clinic supplement those already provided at the CUCS drop-in center and by Saint Mary's Church.

CHHMP project activities are driven by five main goals: 1) to provide free, high quality primary health services to the homeless community of Harlem and establish a "medical home" for clinic patients; 2) to provide free basic health education services to the clinic community; 3) to provide referrals to a wide variety of social services in the local community; 4) to further the education of medical students in the practice of primary care medicine and community health; and 5) to help student-clinicians learn about the health and social needs of the community, the challenges of providing healthcare to underserved populations and advocacy for underserved populations

Having completed a six-month pilot phase in October 2007, CHHMP is now in its second phase of operations and expansion. Activities include investigating options to purchase basic diagnostic equipment and laboratory services, providing follow-up appointments at Columbia's Farrell Community Health Center, and continuing to carry out needs assessments. In addition, a major focus is helping patients gain access to medications, either by having the clinic purchase them directly or by setting up an account at a local pharmacy. The CHHMP clinic is looking forward to the next phase of operations, the possibility of expanding available services, and the continuation of an invaluable learning experience for the students involved.


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Last Updated: 8/27/09

Updated on October 25, 2013.


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