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From classroom to community: Medical students bring health services to underserved populations

Students provided free health services to underserved populations, including minority and refugee groups, in Dallas and Round Rock
two medical students speak with a health fair participant

Three third-year medical students at the Texas A&M University School of Medicine displayed their commitment to promoting health for underserved communities in Texas by hosting two community service projects last month. Zachary Gopin, Alexander Le and Sayali Shelke held two separate events in Dallas and Round Rock, cities where two Texas A&M School of Medicine campuses are located. The projects were funded by Texas Medical Association (TMA) Medical Student Community Leadership Grants awarded to the students.

In Dallas, Gopin and Le spent nine months organizing the Agape Community Health Fair, which was held on Sept. 16, 2023, for the Agape Clinic, a student-led clinic that serves thousands of uninsured patients annually. Gopin hoped to achieve equity, collaboration and health with this health fair, for which he said people lined up two hours before it began. Attendees received free preventive health screenings, health education, flu shots and resources such as blood pressure cuffs. More than 100 helmets were also provided via Hard Hats for Little Heads.

This bilingual event was directed toward uninsured, predominantly Hispanic community members, and attracted more than 300 attendees. Le says the need for public health initiatives such as this health fair is evident.

“People have so many barriers to health care—socioeconomic, transportation, language—and it’s no good if we just keep medical services within the confines of the hospital or clinic. It’s events like these that bring health care to the people where we can have the most impact,” Le said.

In Round Rock, Shelke implemented a women’s clinic event at the Volunteer Healthcare Clinic on Sept. 30, 2023. This program aimed to serve primarily refugee and immigrant women in Austin, and served 40 women, including 15 Afghan refugees, with screenings for breast and cervical cancer, blood pressure, glucose and hematocrit screenings, and health education. Under Shelke’s leadership, a volunteer group of medical students from the School of Medicine in Round Rock were trained to perform hematocrit readings, provide education and goodie bags to promote sun safety, and conduct intakes using translation services in languages such as Dari, Pashto and Farsi.

health care students review a chart together
Texas A&M medical student Sayali Shelke led a women’s clinic event in Round Rock in September that provided women with screenings for breast and cervical cancer, blood pressure, glucose and hematocrit screenings, and health education. (Contributed photo)

Women came in with an array of conditions, from acute pain to chronic cancers, and many had not seen a medical professional in years, as they had moved from city to city or even country to country.

“While this event was directed towards refugee women and the needs they have in regards to their reproductive health, the hope is that they would become more aware of the large array of resources offered at the Volunteer Healthcare Clinic and come back for any of their other health care needs, whether for them or their families,” Shelke said.

Both teams expressed immense gratitude to the TMA for the funds to bring these much-needed resources to populations in their respective communities that often go overlooked by the broader health care system. The people they served in turn were thankful for the opportunity to make use of medical services that were otherwise inaccessible.

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