Family medicine residents from McMaster University – Osler Family Medicine Program push beyond the boundaries of the hospital to help people living in extreme poverty in unique community partnership.

Family Medicine residents care for people living in extreme poverty

A makeshift community clinic. A shelter. A city park. Under a bridge. These are all places where the most vulnerable of society can often be found. It's also where Family Medicine Residents from the McMaster University – Osler Family Medicine Program helped provide medical care in 2019-20 as part of a community outreach partnership.

The medical students joined an established partnership between Regeneration, a not-for-profit organization that supports the homeless, those at risk of homelessness and those living in extreme poverty, and the Peel Outreach Program, led by Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Dufferin.

Clinton Baretto, a Nurse Practitioner and Assistant Clinical Professor (Adjunct), who has been caring for Regeneration guests since 2018, provided supervision to the residents. He was thrilled when Dr. Jobin Varughese, Site Director, McMaster University - William Osler Health System Family Medicine Residency Program, reached out to find out how they could get involved. That conversation set the wheels in motion and, until the COVID-19 health care crisis hit, residents earned academic credits in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University for this community work. Although Clinton (pictured above with Dr. Cassandra Quan, 2nd year Osler Family Medicine Resident) continues to see patients, the residents have temporarily paused their participation as a result of the pandemic.

Dr. Kelly Silver was one of the first residents to join Clinton at the clinic. "It felt really good to be involved in serving such a vulnerable population," she said. One of the challenges she faced was building trust. "These are people who feel shunned from society and are mistrustful of professionals, particularly physicians. It takes a bit of convincing to assure them we’re there for them." Residents treated a range of conditions at the clinic, including schizophrenia, drug and alcohol addiction, pneumonia and the flu.

Clinton says there are clear transferrable skills associated with this type of clinic work or ‘street medicine’. "You learn to problem solve and to think critically - to look beyond x-rays and blood work," he said.

Dr. Varughese agrees. "I believe this partnership is an extremely valuable one that will help our residents develop into both highly-skilled and deeply compassionate family physicians." The work also aligns with the community-based health care delivery model of the newly formed Brampton/Etobicoke and Area Ontario Health Team, connecting primary, hospital and other health care services.