TAMPA, Fla. — Volunteers with the University of South Florida student-run organization, Tampa Bay Street Medicine (TBSM), make their way through the streets of downtown Tampa twice a month.
These volunteers are medical school students at USF Health’s Morsani College of Medicine and spend a couple of hours providing medical care to the uninsured and unhoused during what is known as a “Street Run.”
The "Street Run" is unique. It brings part of TBSM’s clinical operation to those who are reluctant to reach out and allows these future doctors to get hands-on training.
“These are the patients who are distrustful of the healthcare system and typically wait until their conditions are so bad it requires hospitalization before they seek care,” said Doniya Milani, the "Street Run" director.
Volunteers meet downtown and go out with supplies packed by the TBSM supply team. These supplies include hygiene kits, socks, over-the-counter medications, anti-fungal creams, Narcan, wound care kits and more.
As they make their way to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, they stop and small groups approach individuals by offering kits and socks. That often opens the door to health checks.
Alli Dumitriu Carcoana is the "Street Run" coordinator. She says the goal is to keep the community healthy and out of the hospital through preventative care.
While they mostly treat minor health issues, there are times when these medical students realize there is something more serious. They have an attending doctor with them who can diagnose, suggest treatment and if needed, refer patients to the nearby Tampa General Hospital.
The "Street Run" provides real-life experience in a non-clinical setting to prepare students for their medical careers in addition to what they learn in clinical rotations.
Observing the team, you can see how they are able to quickly earn patient trust and ultimately provide better care without the benefit of a physical record that runs through medical history.
“Knowing the power of positioning yourself at eye contact with someone, making sure that they know that you care for them and that they can feel that, that you are truly listening to all of their complaints and interested in asking more so that you can provide better care is the biggest impact,” Dumitriu Carcona said.
The "Street Run" program has a solid base of volunteers and their visits – every other Friday – provide consistency for those who need care.
During any given "Street Run," medical students help dozens of patients. When 10 Tampa Bay anchor Courtney Robinson joined them, the team saw 22 patients and referred two to the Emergency Department.
"Street Runs" do have their limits. Organizers hope to expand the program in the future to help more people. For example, right now they are not able to provide prescription medication and must refer patients to the hospital. Most patients do follow that advice.
However, they say having things like generic diabetic medication or blood pressure medication could be beneficial.