PCOM South Georgia students spent days of their summer break providing administrative and logistical support at several field clinics organized by the Ellenton Farm Worker Family Health Program (FWFHP).
Winston Price, MD, served as the faculty lead for PCOM South Georgia and worked closely with the student volunteers. He said FWFHP is necessary to ensure that migrant workers and their families receive access to health care. He noted that the medical student volunteers learned valuable lessons by observing first-hand the disparities that are present in medical care for vulnerable populations.
“The migrant workers often don’t get the care and medical assistance that they need or can afford without health insurance,” he said. “This program provides preventive and episodic care at no cost, which is extremely necessary for the families who work outdoors in harsh conditions for long periods of time. Extreme climate-related exposure further exacerbates chronic medical conditions that they disproportionately suffer from.”
According to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic and Latino citizens make up 19% of Colquitt County's population. During the two-week volunteer effort, Iris Rivera (DO ‘25) served as an interpreter between patients and providers. She said that providing medical care to migrants has been a driving force for her medical education.
“A big influence on choosing medicine as a career path was my first shadowing experience at a migrant clinic during my undergraduate education,” she said. “I knew from the first day that I walked out of that clinic that I wanted to provide medical care to migrants just as the physicians there were doing.”
Volunteering with programs like this clinic was one of the primary reasons Rivera said she chose to attend medical school at PCOM South Georgia.
She said, “The Ellenton Farmworker Clinic provides an opportunity to work with a population that too often goes unnoticed when it comes to healthcare access. While The Farm Worker Family Health Program is only a two-week long health camp for seasonal workers, local clinics such as the Ellenton Farmworker Health Clinic provides a medical home base for the families to continue medical care when needed.”
Mohammad Malik (DO ‘24), who was deeply involved in the Area Health Education Center in his home state of North Carolina, also worked alongside the families and healthcare professionals. He said, “I wanted to further immerse myself in the South Georgia community and the Ellenton Farm Clinic was a perfect way to do so. This clinic allowed me to work alongside other Georgia AHEC members to provide health care to the underserved and underprivileged community.”
In addition to encouraging student participation, PCOM South Georgia, through the President’s Community Wellness Initiative, donated bottled water, cooling towels, wide brimmed hats with neck coverings, hand sanitizer and sunscreen to the migrant workers and students who attended the clinic.
With a strong commitment to student volunteer efforts and community wellness, PCOM President and CEO Jay S. Feldstein, DO ‘81, formed the CWI to support existing projects and foster cross-campus collaboration to provide programming and resources for the communities that PCOM serves.
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) extended its commitment to the Southeast by establishing PCOM South Georgia, an additional teaching location in Moultrie, Georgia. PCOM South Georgia offers both a full, four-year medical program leading to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree and a Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences degree. PCOM is a private, not-for-profit institution which trains professionals in the health and behavioral sciences fields. Joining PCOM Georgia in Suwanee in helping to meet the healthcare needs of the state, PCOM South Georgia focuses on educating physicians for the South Georgia region. The medical campus, which welcomed its inaugural class of medical students in August 2019, has received accreditation from the American Osteopathic Association's Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation. For more information, visit pcom.edu/southgeorgia or call 229-668-3110.
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