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It has been a dream of mine to attend the University of Michigan Medical School since I was very young. This is partly because I have always been a huge Michigan football fan, but more importantly because of the tremendous amount of opportunities Michigan offers to help people who are financially disadvantaged. Coming from poverty, I have always wanted to give back to this community to hopefully give them a chance at following their dreams, as my mentors have done for me. I took advantage of one of these opportunities last week by volunteering at the Delonis Clinic in downtown Ann Arbor, and wanted to share this experience with you.

To begin, the Delonis Center is a homeless shelter that started in 2004 with the goal of providing homeless people in Ann Arbor and surrounding areas free housing while they help them get back on their feet, find a job, and find permanent housing. The Delonis Clinic, where I volunteered, is the medical center inside of this building. It resembles a small urgent care facility, but the impact it has had on the greater Ann Arbor area is extensive. Anyone who meets a certain financial need is eligible to either make an appointment at the clinic or stop in during business hours to be seen for a variety of ailments. This has been a blessing for the people who have used the service.

I can relate to this personally as I have lived most of my life without health insurance. The stress of deciding what is “urgent enough” to go see a doctor is something I hope none of you have to experience. Considering almost all of the patients the clinic sees are also homeless, one can see the difficulty these people experience when trying to manage their health. The fact that Ann Arbor has a place in the Delonis Clinic where they can effectively treat this population is something that makes it a very special place to me.

The role of the medical student at the Delonis Clinic is also very rewarding. As an M1 you are paired up with a senior medical student (usually M3 or M4) and a family care physician. The M1’s role is to greet the patient, take their vitals, then spend about 20 minutes taking their medical history and doing a relevant physical exam for whatever brought them to the clinic. The M1 will then present these to the attending doctor, go over a possible treatment plan for that patient, and then see the patient with the doctor to explain their options to try and find a patient-centered solution to their concerns.

This experience is priceless. For me, much of the first year of medical school has been trying to figure out how to tie in the massive amount of information we are learning into actual clinical care. Being able to volunteer at the Delonis Clinic gave me a low-stress experience to help me answer some of those questions and serve a population that is less fortunate than myself. Having this type of opportunity is something I believe makes the University of Michigan Medical School a special place to train.