Giving for a Good Cause

Sari Schulman had been eyeing one item all night. It wasn’t brunch for four at the Four Seasons Washington, or the private wine tasting tour for twelve at Woodhall Wine Cellars in Md., or even the two round-trip tickets on JetBlue Airways. Those items were all on the auction block, waiting for the right bidder, but they weren’t for her. Schulman coveted the promise of tapas and sangria for four with Charles Samenow, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS).  “It would be so cool to pick his brain over dinner,” says Schulman, a first-year physician assistant (PA) student at SMHS.

Schulman was one of many who dug deep into their pockets for that special item, and for a good cause — the GW Healing Clinic’s Annual Charity Auction on March 19.

The event was postponed from its original date of March 3 because of inclimate weather. “It’s so exciting to finally see all of our hard work come together after month of planning,” says Lindsay Marszal, a second-year medical student at SMHS, and director of communications and marketing for the GW Healing Clinic.

This year’s items were donated by students, faculty, local businesses, and members of the GW community. One hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to supporting the Clinic’s operational expenses, including medical and lab supplies and facility costs.

For auction co-chairs Kristy Hawley, Paul Kline, and Aaron Murphy-Crews, all second-year SMHS medical students, the event was all about raising money to support the Clinic’s efforts to open a second site in Prince George’s (PG) County, Md. “The Healing Clinic has reached a preliminary agreement with the PG County Department of Health to offer our clinical and preventative care at a new clinic located on the PG County/ D.C. border,” says Kline. This new initiative is important because “there are nearly 40,000 residents this area with no or limited access to primary care,” he added.

“This is such an exciting and fun way to raise money to support the GW Healing Clinic,” says Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, RESD ’85, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, vice president for health affairs, and dean of SMHS. “It’s terrific to support our students who are doing such a wonderful thing in the community.”

Founded in 2006, the student-run GW Healing Clinic offers primary and preventive care, health education, and counseling to Washington, D.C. residents regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. In 2007, the Association of American Medical Colleges, with funding from Pfzier, Inc., awarded SMHS a Medicine in the Community Grant to open the Healing Clinic. The Clinic’s site opened at Bread for the City, a non-profit organization in Northwest, D.C. that provides food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services to underserved populations. The grant kept the Clinic running for the first four years. Since the grant ended, students have been responsible for fundraising.

In her role as faculty advisor for the 2013–14 Healing Clinic Steering Committee, Lisa M. Alexander, Ed.D.’03, M.P.H.’89, PA-C ’79, assistant dean for community-based partnerships, interim chair, and program director of the PA program at SMHS, was most excited about the student turnout. “Faculty has always been supportive but it is really heartwarming to see the number of students here,” says Alexander. “They are the future, and their show of support tonight tells me that they understand what it means to make a commitment to something.”

This year’s charity auction committee made a conscious effort to reach out the local GW community for donated items and their response was overwhelming. “I was thrilled at the number of businesses in Foggy Bottom that wanted to contribute this year,” says Sam Margulies, a second-year medical student at SMHS and director of fundraising for the GW Healing Clinic.

“The students work extremely hard to make this event a success in order to keep the clinic open and running,” says Rhonda Goldberg, M.A., associate dean for student affairs at SMHS and faculty advisor for the charity auction committee. “Their passion and dedication is truly impressive.”

The auction raised more than $25,000. For the student volunteers, the auction’s success reinforces their commitment to keeping the Healing Clinic operational and gives them the resources to move forward with the developments in PG County. It makes all the planning and hard work worth it, says Hawley. The Clinic hopes to open its doors in PG County next fall.