'We want to take care of our community': Street medicine program brings foot clinic to The Landing

‘We want to take care of our community’: Street medicine program brings foot clinic to The Landing

ROCHESTER — When Zhenya Knyazhanskaya was preparing to attend Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Rochester last year, she repeatedly heard comments about Rochester not being the best place to study if she wanted to work with underserved and disadvantaged populations.

“You hear that message just because, you know, Rochester isn’t LA,” she said. “Rochester is not New York or Chicago.”

Knyazhanskaya came to Rochester with this thought in mind, and she figured she should go a different route.

Then the Zumbro Valley Medical Society launched its street medicine initiative last year. The program includes an elective course that allows medical students to work with homeless-serving agencies and gives students the chance to learn ways to bring out-of-clinic health care to underserved populations. .

Knyazhanskaya participated in the program during her first year.

“I loved it. I thought it was an incredibly important thing that we were doing,” she said of her experience last year. “That’s what I wanted to do. I came to Mayo because it’s wonderful, but I also wanted to work with disadvantaged populations. So (the choice) was kind of a surprise, honestly, to me.

Zumbro Valley Medical Society executive director Beth Kangas said starting specialty clinics at community organizations helping homeless people was discussed during the first year of the street medicine program, but was not discussed. was not produced because they were learning to manage such a program.

The idea for the clinics surfaced about three months ago during a meeting with The Landing MN, the Rochester-based organization that provides support to homeless people.

And on Saturday, December 3, 2022, medical students participating in the Street Medicine Initiative gathered at The Landing to provide foot care to visitors. People received baths and foot treatments, as well as new socks and shoes.

A fall 2022 Better Communities grant from the Rochester Area Foundation enabled ZVMS to purchase 173 pairs of shoes, Kangas said. The socks were donated by Hippy Feet, a Minneapolis-based company that serves homeless youth.

Dan Fifield, co-founder of The Landing, said the clinic is the perfect example of what his organization wants to do for the community.

“We have a guy who hasn’t taken his boots off for two weeks and his feet were horrible. It is their main means of transport. (Their feet) are the most important thing in their body, if you will,” he said. “That’s exactly what we want to do. We want to take care of our community. We want to give back, and we’re thrilled to be that vessel here.

For Knyazhanskaya and other medical students participating in the street medicine initiative, the clinic has allowed them to immerse themselves directly in caring for those who need it most.

“It’s a great opportunity, a great privilege and really humbling all at once,” she said. “It’s something that we really don’t get as a classroom experience. We’ve been to lectures, we’ve studied, we’ve looked at textbooks, we’ve watched flashcards, and it’s been great. But that’s not the same as literally being underneath a person as they dip their feet and tell you their life story, telling you about all their medical issues.

“It’s really humbling to be in this position,” Knyazhanskaya said. “And you might think of yourself as the smartest medical student in the world, but really what it comes down to in the end is human interaction and empathy. That’s it. And you can’t get that from a manual.

Fifield hopes there will be more clinics in the future for The Landing and the street medicine program. A possible eye clinic was mentioned a few times on Saturday.

“I think that’s one of the most exciting things,” he said. “These are just the things we can continue to do to help.”

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