Published November 6, 2022
Residents of the Fruit Belt, Cold Spring and Masten Park neighborhoods and others received expert care for their feet at a recent free clinic organized by surgeons and medical students from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Free and open to the public, the clinic — called Kickstart Buffalo because it serves to inaugurate the Department of Surgery’s increased emphasis on community care — included a physical exam, screening for peripheral arterial disease and referrals. Representatives from the Center for Elder Law and Justice were also there to provide free legal advice and consultation.
Students working under the supervision of Linda M. Harris, MD, professor of surgery and director of the vascular surgery program, and Brittany C. Montross, MD, clinical assistant professor of surgery, provided the physical exams and foot care.
The idea for the event grew directly out of the Department of Surgery’s Summer Diversity Research Mentorship program, which was designed to address and mitigate the effects of systemic racism and inequality in health care.
The program provides underrepresented medical students with an opportunity to be mentored by attending surgeons, while also giving them an opportunity to conduct research on health disparities in the majority-Black Fruit Belt community adjacent to the Jacobs School.
The fellows met regularly with residents to consider ways they might create greater dialogue and trust between the school and people living in the surrounding neighborhoods.
As part of their research, medical students developed several recommendations, including holding regular neighborhood clinics in trusted community spaces.
In addition to preventive care, the students found that many neighborhood residents did not have regular access to legal advice, so Kenny J. Oh, MD, who is an attorney in addition to being a fifth-year trainee in the vascular surgery residency program, asked the Center for Elder Law and Justice to take part.
“Our effort is to meet people where they are,” explains Michael Lamb, PhD, research assistant professor of surgery and director of surgical education at the Jacobs School. “When we asked people in the neighborhood about their health concerns, we often heard about mobility issues, problems with their feet and the prevalence of diabetes. We heard a great deal of fear about amputation. If you are a vascular surgeon, sadly, a significant part of your work is amputations, but many such cases can be prevented if the patient gets the proper treatment early enough.”
The decision was made to hold the clinic at the St. James House of Prayer, where Larry Daniel, a well-loved security officer in the Jacobs School, is pastor. Through that connection, the Jacobs School has worked with Daniel and his congregation on previous events.
“When it comes to ministry, it goes beyond the four walls of the structure of the building,” Daniel notes. “It’s really about the needs of the community. We do have members of our church and the community who are affected by diabetes.”
Lamb stresses that having the clinic at the church was absolutely intentional. “We are saying, ‘We want to meet you where you feel most comfortable and build trust with you. There are forms of care that don’t have to take place in the clinical space. Our surgeons are out in the community as well.’”
The plan is to hold these foot clinics every few months throughout the community.