There are several student-run homeless clinics at UCLA, each serving a distinct patient population. Clinics are normally scheduled on Saturday mornings and Monday/Thursday evenings and run all year round, rain or shine.
Each clinic is coordinated by two student chiefs, whose responsibilities include triaging patients, coordinating clinic volunteers, and assisting with medications and supplies. Medical students in their 1st/2nd year are paired up with 3rd/4th year students to take patient histories and conduct physical exams. Students then present their patients to a resident (if available) and attending physician. An educational session on a topic pertinent to the homeless patient population is given either prior to the start of clinic or at the end.
Students encounter a variety of acute and chronic diseases and these will vary, particularly among the different clinic locations. The most common problems we deal with include upper respiratory infections, skin infections, hypertension, asthma, and mental health issues.
Sign up occurs during the Fall Student Organization Fair or you may contact the Director of Operations Chief.
All students must attend an orientation session in September, as well as a mid-year (January) and end-of-year (May) reflection. Students enrolled in the selective must attend a minimum of 6 clinics, while those enrolled in the elective must attend a minimum of 7 clinics. In addition, students obtaining elective credit must conduct one educational activity, such as teaching first/second year students on-site or providing a health-related lecture to students or clinic residents.
You may volunteer at any time, but priority is given to students enrolled in the selective/elective. Due to the popularity of the selective, it is fairly competitive sign up for a clinic. Students are chosen based on a lottery system, so there is no way to improve your chances of being selected. The Student Affairs Office will send information on how to sign up for the selective sometime in August or September. If you are not able to get in the selective, but would still like to volunteer, please contact our Director of Operations Chief. Most students attend the required number of clinics for the selective/elective, but there is no limit to the number of clinics you may attend. We encourage you to volunteer as much as possible to ensure patient continuity.
Students at all levels will benefit from the clinical experience. We aim to pair first/second year students with third/fourth year students to provide guidance in taking patient histories and conducting physical exams. The first/second year student will then present to a resident and/or attending who will provide teaching points while helping the student develop an appropriate assessment and plan for the patient.
The Samoshel clinic focuses on providing free health care services to the adult homeless population by offering general physicals, basic primary care treatment, and preventive health services. Based on screening evaluations and physical exams, patient are provided on-site services and also referred to appropriate facilities for additional testing, imaging, and treatment.
The Samoshel homeless shelter became a part of the OPCC (formerly Ocean Park Community Center) in September 2005. It was established in 1994 by the Salvation Army to provide homeless men and women an alternative to living on the streets and to help them obtain jobs and permanent housing. Services include on-site case management, counseling, 12-step meetings, housing referrals and employment assistance.
As Samoshel provides emergency and transitional housing for 110 homeless adults, a steady stream of patients and a variety of medical concerns are serviced at the Samoshel clinic with common symptoms ranging from upper respiratory infections to dermatologic complaints.
The winter shelters are organized by various agencies that are coordinated and managed by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. The shelters provide housing for up to 175 people along with meals, showers, cots, and social services. The large size of the shelters allows students to experience the full spectrum of illnesses affecting a diverse patient population. For some clinics, medical students may work alongside nursing students from the UCLA School of Nursing, fostering a team-oriented approach towards health care.