A health clinic on wheels is bringing medical care to hundreds of Hawaii's homeless
The John A. Burns School of Medicine's mobile clinic has brought medical care to hundreds of homeless people across O'ahu in the past twelve years.
"So we go out to areas like Wai'anae, Kalaeloa, Haleiwa. We have several sites in town as well so nine sites total," Dr. Jill Omori said.
Four to five days a week, the John A. Burns School of Medicine's Homeless Outreach and Medical Education Project, also known as the "HOME" project, brings medical checkups to the streets.
"From proper wound care to administering vaccines, the home project provides it all," medical student Aaron Suzuka said.
And its reach is growing, adding Chinatown, and Wahiawa to the roster, some of the places Dr. Omori says homeless populations need the most medical attention. It also provides valuable teaching for medical students.
"I really wanted to infuse more experience for the students in working with underserved populations because when I was a medical student I didn't have that kind of experience and I really felt like the students needed to experience working with the underserved population if we ever wanted to go back and work with this population when they became physicians," Dr. Omori said.
Medical student Aaron Suzuka has seen some eye-opening sights.
"I saw one patient with a giant infection wrapped around her ankle that we had to send to the emergency room. I've also seen patients that are fully psychotic and hallucinating and are very difficult to communicate with. But I've also just seen children who just have a rash or a cut, people who also need vaccinations," Suzuka said.
Even though Suzuka has reached his community curriculum requirements, he keeps coming back to help.
"One thing that's great about the HOME project is that it exposes medical students to the community and kind of this underserved population that really needs care. And once you see that it's really hard to ignore it. Over the last four years I just keep coming back because I know what I'm doing is meaningful and it's helping someone in some way," Suzuka said.
Grants and donations have kept this program running, and they're always looking for more help.