Cathedral teams up with Wayne State for unique medical outreach program

Wayne State’s CHIP group comes to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Detroit for a monthly medical outreach program.

A church-based free clinic voluntarily staffed by students of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and School of Social Work has received a $15,068, two-year grant from the Detroit Medical Center Foundation to continue services for the area’s homeless population through November 2017.

The Community Homeless Interprofessional Program Clinic (CHIP) at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Detroit, founded in March 2014, provides care for the homeless once a month (normally, the third Sunday of each month) through a partnership with the cathedral and WSU second-year medical students, second-year pharmacy students and social work students.

Grant funds will support the purchase of basic equipment and supplies to enhance care and help patients bridge the gap before obtaining health care insurance or regain employment, and will maximize on-site care by providing support to acquire a physical exam table, cholesterol kits, pregnancy tests, adult sphygmomanometers, blood sugar reading tools and over-the-counter medications and first-aid supplies.

“(The clinic) creates a portal for individuals who are on the edge of survival and the margins of sustainable living to receive even rudimentary medical care. It is a portal to address what to others may seem simple, but which to them, impact survivability and quality of life that most of us cannot imagine,” said the Very Rev. S. Scott Hunter, dean for the cathedral. “It opens the eyes of future medical practitioners… to the realities of the human condition that, at best, we wish did not exist, and at worst, our systems heighten. It also provides a modeling to all connected by faculty and other mentors that ‘making it’ means caring for those who systems marginalize or bypass, thereby defining success and leadership in ways not often embraced in our culture.”

Students from the three health professions evaluate and serve the homeless, offering basic medical and pharmacy evaluation and health and community resource education. CHIP is further supported by the Wayne State Interprofessional student organization, whose leaders include second-year medical students Kathleen Turner, Ismail Gregory and Tony Lin. Gregory and Lin are the clinic’s medical student coordinators.

“CHIP provides an opportunity for medical students to interact with homeless individuals in a constructive clinical setting. I participate because of how much I enjoy helping the individuals in need, and their true appreciation of our service is rewarding,” Gregory said. “It is important to continue because the minor care students and faculty provide at CHIP can lessen the burden on local health care providers, and it importantly builds comfort between medical students and homeless persons when providing care.”

The unique population in Detroit requires attention and care, Lin added.

“The recovery of Detroit is exciting, and the students at Wayne State are thrilled to be a part of the positive change. Health care is and will continue to be a major focus of Detroit’s development. Providing medical consultation to the homeless population is a great way to start,” he said.

Pharmacy student coordinator Brenna Johnson, pharmacy students Jeremy DeLor and Megan Kucemba, and School of Social Work student coordinator Adriene Jenkins also are part of the student-based staff.

“The CHIP allows us to operate in a capacity much like other health care settings,” Jenkins said. “We learn from each other and combine our efforts to provide minimal patient-centered care with every client we encounter.”

The students are supervised by faculty members Jennifer Mendez, Ph.D., director of Co-Curricular Programs at the School of Medicine, and one to two physicians, a pharmacist, a social worker, two Ph.D. educators and a master’s in Public Administration student. One to two community volunteers round out the monthly volunteer group. Assistant Professor Justine Gortney is the primary faculty contact in the Doctor of Pharmacy program.

“The CHIP program provides an opportunity to connect the homeless with our WSU students and faculty, who provide basic health education, evaluation and access to community resources in a non-threatening environment of the cathedral,” Dr. Gortney said. “It helps us give back to the community and at the same time affords our pharmacy, medicine and social work students an opportunity to work together as professionals and develop their patient evaluation and communication skills. I feel like the program helps invest in the future of Detroit on many levels.”

Students conduct basic health screenings and assess the medical and social state of each self-identified patient. The students then provide health and community resource education and give referrals to local clinics for further assessment and treatment of chronic and acute conditions.

Pharmacy students assist with preliminary health screenings and improve use of existing medications, reduce polypharmacy (the simultaneous use of multiple drugs to treat a single condition) and maximize patient safety.

Social work students help locate temporary and long-term housing assistance to help the patients find a safe place to live.

“We are able to provide them with housing information that may lead to them getting off the streets,” Jenkins said.

One man returned two months later to tell them he received housing because of their referral. “This is one of the joys, to know that we have made an indirect impact for someone,” Jenkins said. “We have also successfully signed some up for insurance coverage.”

Common encountered health conditions include hypertension, diabetes, respiratory disease, seizure disorders, mental health issues and substance abuse disorders. About 120 people received services in the previous year, according to the organization.

The clinic is always in need of gloves, hats, scarves, blankets, socks, toothbrushes/toothpaste, large Ziploc bags and reliable volunteers. To volunteer or donate, call Dr. Mendez at (313) 577-2125 or email

This story was originally published by the Wayne State University School of Medicine.