GW Community Bids for a Good Cause

Dinner with Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, G.M.E. ’85; skiing with W. Scott Schroth, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for administration; and a round of golf with Robert Shesser, M.D., chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, were just a few of the items that made the entire George Washington University community dig deep into their pockets. Not only did attendees walk away with some first-rate auction items like an exotic getaway, a spa day, jewelry, and an iPad, but they did it to support a very worthy cause — GW’s student-run Healthcare, Education, and Active Living Clinic (HEALing Clinic). Members of the GW community converged on Ross Hall to place their bids at the HEALing Clinic’s 14th annual charity auction, April 11. Lynn Povanda, manager of classroom services at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), was there to support the students and clinic, and maybe even win the Tyler Clippard autographed baseball she bid on for her husband.

The items were donated by students, faculty, local businesses, and members of the GW community. All of the proceeds from the auction go directly to support the HEALing Clinic, covering medical and lab supplies, program supplies, and facility costs.

For former HEALing Clinic co-director Adam Morcom, a second-year medical student at SMHS, the pressure was off this year. “I can relax a little more this time around and even place a bid or two,” he said. Morcom bid on a racket ball game with professor David Mendelowitz, Ph.D. “If I beat him, he is going to donate $100 to the HEALing Clinic and if he beats me, he is going to donate $50 dollars,” he added.

As faculty advisor for the 2013-2014 HEALing Clinic Steering Committee, Lisa M. Alexander, Ed.D., M.P.H., PA-C, assistant dean for Community-Based Partnerships, interim chair and program director of the Physician Assistant Program at SMHS, finds her role extremely rewarding. “I get to see such growth in their professional development over the course of four years and beyond.”

Founded in 2006, the 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. Because the grant has ended, says Alexander, responsibility for fundraising has fallen to the students. “These students are extremely dedicated to the clinic’s mission and work very hard to coordinate this effort,” she added.

Rhonda Goldberg, M.A., associate dean for student affairs at SMHS and faculty advisor for the charity auction committee, played huge role in the auction’s success. Goldberg was responsible for facilitating the student activities related to the auction.

In an effort to reach their fundraisings goal, auction chairs Elizabeth Brunn, Soshana Clerizier, Kristen Norrell, Christine Royer, and Suzanne Gouda, all second-year medical students at SMHS, have been preparing for the auction for nearly a year. “We started the planning process a lot earlier this year,” said Gouda. “The extra time really allowed us to think through every detail of the day to achieve our fundraising goal.”

Along with garnering support from students and faculty, this year’s auction committee made a conscious effort to reach out the local GW community. “Local businesses in Foggy Bottom have been extremely supportive of the clinic’s mission and were more than willing to help,” said Brunn.

“The HEALing Clinic has given so much to me,” said Gouda. “I want to continue to give back to clinic, whether it’s donating my time, fundraising, or simply spreading the word to my fellow medical students about getting involved.” As a first-year medical student, Gouda volunteered at the clinic to get hands-on training in a clinical setting. It turned out to be such a positive experience for her that now, as a second-year medical student, she wants to get other medical students involved to share all of the benefits that the clinic has to offer.

This year’s auction was a great success, says Gouda, raising roughly $33,000. For the student volunteers, this event demonstrates their significant commitment to keeping the HEALing Clinic running and providing quality medical care to underserved residents in D.C. Looking ahead, the clinic hopes to open another location this fall. For Alexander, the HEALing Clinic provides a unique opportunity for students to get involved. “They can hone their leadership skills and service their community at the same time.”