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Student Health Outreach for Wellness (SHOW) is a tri-university, student-run clinic where interprofessional teams of students work together to provide health care and education to homeless individuals in the Phoenix, Arizona area. CAIPER has collaborated with SHOW on a variety of initiatives and provided support for the design and evaluation of SHOW’s teamwork model.
This academic year, I’ll be finishing up a B.S. in Computer Science at ASU. During my free time, I like to make and design iPhone apps that do useless things like play random sound bytes from DJ Khaled interviews. I don’t fit the demographic of your average volunteer at a student-run free clinic.
I first joined Student Health Outreach for Wellness (SHOW) with the intent of getting more experience in the technology space. After the previous chair’s tenure, there was a need for someone willing and able to manage the tech related tasks that the organization had to deal with – website maintenance, HTML and CSS email templates, social media and clinical data analytics, even fixing the WiFi when it was down during our weekly clinic hours. The technology committee had no people in it, and I saw an opportunity to build something from scratch with the skills I had – skills the organization desperately needed to be effective in today’s tech-centric age.
I carried out my official responsibilities during the initial months, but after a reorganization of our organization, and the subsequent fusion of our Communications and Technology committees, I found myself transitioning from someone whose work was mostly done behind the scenes to becoming a student leader, with the responsibility of guiding and contributing to the marketing strategy of a homeless clinic.
Suffice to say, I was a bit out of my depth. I had to learn a lot of things on the fly – how to design flyers, how to take photos during our clinical hours and programming events, email etiquette, how to lead a meeting, how to properly delegate tasks to the right students, and seemingly countless others.
One of the marketing projects I ended up working on, and eventually coordinating, was Humans of SHOW. This project was the brainchild of SHOW volunteers Maggie Delaney and Kelsey Flood, who had respectively gone off to physical therapy and nursing school.
The goal of this project was to tell the stories of our clients, challenging the stereotypes of the homeless and underserved commonly held by the public. We did this by venturing out on to the lawn of the Human Services Campus, and interviewing clients there, asking them about their experiences. We would audio record these interviews, sharing a photographic portrait paired with a quote from the interview, which we felt humanized our interviewee and separated their humanity from their housing situation.
Humans of SHOW eventually garnered media attention from ASU’s State Press, ASUNow, and FOX-10. The journalists who shadowed us during our interviewing all had similar comments to make after clinic – that their perceptions of the homeless had shifted after only a couple of interviews that day.
It occurred to the leaders of the project that a journalist would be the perfect type of volunteer for this initiative; getting and broadcasting circumstantial truth is what they do, after all. Following this realization, we sought out journalism students to assist us in our project, and we have learned a lot about how to properly represent truth from the expertise of these talented students.
This project eventually reached the desk of the Society of Student Run Free Clinics, whose national conference, was being held in Anaheim, California that year - a short(ish) drive away from our location in Downtown Phoenix.
While there, our team saw research and presentations from undergraduates and medical students from around the country. All of this research was of course directed at figuring out the best way to deliver care to underserved populations, but many teams took a distinct approach, often using resources from a wide array of academic disciplines.
I saw one team using technology to conduct patient surveys and locate useful services for social work students. Another team from Harvard was using students from the Harvard Business School to help improve operations at the clinic, allowing them to allocate funds in the most efficient way possible. They were also to leveraging the knowledge of law students from the Harvard Law School to provide free legal counseling to clients of the clinic.
The wide array of disciplines being represented showed me that interprofessional practice has use far beyond medicine. When your team has both breadth and depth of knowledge, its members are empowered to focus on what they do best. The end result of which is improving patient outcomes in ways beyond their physical health.
Many people see clinics as a place only for health students to volunteer, but in actuality it requires many different schools of thought to function successfully. Like our clients, student-run clinics are much more complex than they seem, and they need attention from many different disciplines, both medical and non-medical, to get to the next level of service and care.
To those reading this article looking for experience in any field, be it education, marketing, journalism, business, engineering, law, or the arts, you can find experience at a free clinic, all while doing something that builds your community and your humanity.
Faiz Khan is an ASU Senior studying Computer Science at Barrett, the Honors College. He is currently the Director of Programs for Student Health Outreach for Wellness (SHOW), overseeing outreach, marketing, and health education efforts. He is pursuing a career in the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Education.