Placing Bids to Make a Difference

The spirit of Sin City descended upon the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) as the GW Healing Clinic hosted its 16th Annual Spring Fundraiser, March 6. The Las Vegas-themed affair, complete with card dealers and casino chips, offered guests the chance to try their luck at the craps table, play black jack, or bid it all at the poker table while supporting a good cause. The event also featured a silent auction that included items donated by students, faculty, local businesses, and members of the GW community. The more than $20,000 raised at this year’s event goes directly to supporting the Clinic’s operational expenses, including medical and lab supplies and facility costs.

For Erica Millett, a first-year physician assistant student at SMHS and director of fundraising at the GW Healing Clinic, this year’s spring fundraiser was about increasing student involvement. “We found that the silent auction we ran in previous years was successful, but people wanted something more interactive, an event that students could feel more a part of. That’s how Vegas Night was created.”

“The GW Healing Clinic really just speaks to the whole service commitment of the school,” 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. “Our students couldn’t be more enthusiastic about their involvement.”

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 their 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 GW’s first Healing Clinic 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.

This month, the Healing Clinic opened a second site, Bridge to Care, in Prince George’s (PG) County, Maryland. Located at the Cheverly Health Center, across from the PG County Hospital, the clinic will operate on Thursday evenings from 5-8 p.m.

“The area we are serving has more than 40,000 residents with extremely limited access to primary care,” says Laura Johns, a second-year medical student at SMHS and auction co-chair.

“It’s important for us for give back as future physicians,” says Jennifer Ludgin, a second-year medical student at SMHS and director of communications and marketing for the GW Healing Clinic. “By giving back at the beginning of our careers, we are instilling in ourselves the importance of service, something that will be a part of our future practices.”

This year, the GW Healing Clinic received the Cyril A. and Margaret B. Schulman Distinguished Service Award. The clinic will receive $20,000 each year for the next four years. Established in 1992 by Cyril A. Schulman, ’42, B.S. ’38, A.A. ’37 and his wife Margaret, J.D. ’58, B.A. ’38, AA ’36, income earned from this fund is used to recognize a member of the GW medical faculty who volunteers to provide medical services to the community.

“This Schulman endowment will help alleviate the fundraising burden for students,” says Lisa M. Alexander, Ed.D.’03, M.P.H.’89, PA-C ’79, faculty advisor for the clinic’s Steering Committee and assistant dean for community-based partnerships, interim chair, and program director of the PA program at SMHS. “This comes at a great time when we are expanding and opening our second clinic in PG County.”

Johns, along with Steering Committee co-chairs Aislynn Raymond, a second-year medical student at SMHS, and Matthew Schoenherr, a second-year clinical physiology in health care administration student at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at GW, couldn’t be more grateful for this financial assistance, which will allow students to treat more underserved populations.

“I’m extremely proud of their passion and dedication to keep the clinics operational and to serve the community,” says Rhonda Goldberg, M.A., associate dean for student affairs at SMHS and faculty advisor for the charity auction committee.

For Alexander, the GW Healing Clinic provides an opportunity for “medical students, PA students, and public health students to work together in a collaborative way to improve the lives of those with less.”