Two Temple/St. Luke’s medical students are leading a group that’s hard at work creating an evening-hours charity clinic to feed, clothe and provide free medical care to underserved and homeless downtown Allentown residents.
Second-year students Taj (Saran) Singh and Kyle Tio have been collecting coats, hygiene supplies and food to give away at what they call the Student-Led Interprofessional Care Center, or SLICC. SLICC will share space within the Center for Recovery, the drop-in facility at 315 Linden St. that opened last year and serves people at all stages of recovery or addiction.
SLICC is scheduled for a grand opening on the evening of May 18.
The Temple/St. Luke’s School of Medicine at St. Luke’s University Hospital in Fountain Hill is the Lehigh Valley’s first and only four-year medical school, where the region’s brightest young minds go to become doctors. By cultivating local medical talent, such as Singh and Tio, St. Luke’s is helping the region to secure its health and well-being amid a worsening nationwide doctor shortage.
“We can do more to give back to the community,” Singh said.
“There’s so much need out among the at-risk population that we had to do something,” added Tio.
SLICC received start-up support from St. Luke’s Community Health Department from its 150th Year Anniversary fund.
Along with classmates from the School of Medicine and staff at nearby St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus, the duo began distributing the much-needed items at SLICC in November and is preparing to be open two Thursdays each month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Conversations with community members and St. Luke’s staff along with insights from the network’s latest Community Health Needs Assessment helped inform their plans for the center.
“We’re hoping to start building trust in this community even before we officially open,” Singh said. “There’s often a strained relationship between minority groups and the healthcare system that needs to be addressed. People won’t listen to advice on their health if they don’t trust their providers.”
He learned the importance of making connections with community people while teaching school in an economically-stressed section of Baltimore before starting med school at Temple/St. Luke’s.
As part of their effort, following the grand opening Tio and Singh will schedule St. Luke’s physicians, nurses and other providers to give free health checkups, perform minor treatments and hand out Narcan overdose-reversing kits and other medicines that treat addiction at SLICC.
“Our medical students truly care about our underserved community and will do anything to help people who do not have readily available access to necessities of daily living like food, water and clothing,” said Ikemefuna Akusoba, MD, St. Luke’s bariatric surgeon and director of student advocacy and community engagement at Temple/St. Luke’s School of Medicine, who supported Singh and Tio on the project. “Our medical students understand that health-related outcomes are worse in the underserved populations, and through SLICC they hope to intervene.”
Singh said he is motivated to help by practicing “sewa,” a key tenet of Sikhism, the Indian religion he and his family practice, which emphasizes the importance of selfless service to humanity in need. Born in Pottsville, he has lived in the Lehigh Valley for most of his life. His father is a retired physician in Mahanoy City, Schuylkill County, and his sister is an oral surgeon.
Both founders also volunteer at the St. Luke’s Parish Nursing weekly, free Laundry on Linden at the Family Wash Day laundromat in downtown Allentown; a program for people who are experiencing homelessness or struggling with other financial hardships.
Tio, whose parents are doctors in New York City, called SLICC “a passion project” for him, which he was inspired to tackle by Temple University medical students in North Philadelphia who run a similar facility.
“We see how many people need help accessing just the basics for living, and we want to offer those services at SLICC as an extension of other St. Luke’s Community Health projects,” Singh said.
“We want to start something that will make a difference right where we live,” agreed Tio.
Note: This local health news is brought to you in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network.
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